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Published: Sunday, 12/25/2011

Take the easy way for holiday dinner

BY ALICIA ROSS, WITH BEVERLY MILLS
DESPERATION DINNERS

This year I'm serving pasta for Christmas dinner. Oh, I know Christmas dinner is a meal that deserves something extraordinary. But I'm so tired from unpacking boxes and dealing with issues in my new space that the idea of standing in the kitchen for hours putting together the perfect "Martha Stewart Dinner for 20" makes me want to crawl in one of those boxes and hide. So I'm skipping the expense and time of the huge roast (and all the trimmings), and I'm boiling some noodles.

Shocking, right? Maybe, but I'm convinced that while we want something rich and amazing, this special holiday meal should be more about spending time with the people we love. And I can do that over a plate of pasta just as well as a standing rib roast. So Christmas dinner at my house is going to be Penne With Gorgonzola Cream and Cranberries.

The mildly sharp, tangy flavor of the Gorgonzola is a perfect foil to the sweet cranberries, and toasted chopped walnuts provide the texture to pull it all together. With a spinach salad and warm toasted garlic bread, we'll be sitting down to dinner in less than 30 minutes.

Merry Christmas!

Contact Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross at Desperation Dinners, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, or send email to tellus kitchenscoop.com. Visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at www.kitchenscoop.com.

Menu Suggestion:

Penne With Gorgonzola Cream and Cranberries

Spinach Salad

Toasted garlic bread

Prosecco

Penne With Gorgonzola Cream and Cranberries

Start to finish: 20 minutes (more for larger batches)

16 ounces penne pasta

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

4 ounces cream cheese

4 ounces Gorgonzola crumbles

3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries

1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts

Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta cooks, melt butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour to make a paste; stir 30 seconds, until light gold. Slowly add milk and stir constantly, until milk begins to thicken. Remove from heat. Add the cheeses and stir until completely melted. Stir in cranberries.

When pasta is cooked, drain well and place in a large serving dish. Add cheese sauce and toss to mix. Top with toasted walnuts and serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings (easily doubled or tripled)

Approximate values per serving: 576 calories (37 percent from fat), 24 g fat (12 g saturated), 56 mg cholesterol, 23 g protein, 70 g carbohydrates, 7 g dietary fiber, 475 mg sodium



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