Home » Recipes » Dinner » Pasta » Whole Wheat Rigatoni and Broccoli Spinach Sauce

Whole Wheat Rigatoni and Broccoli Spinach Sauce

Perfect cold-weather fare, this whole wheat rigatoni and broccoli spinach sauce recipe is packed with vegetables, whole grains, and cheese.

This past Saturday was chilly — cold, by San Francisco standards (and granted we’re wimps but it was actually pretty cold). Picture me camped out on my futon under piled-on blankets and wearing wool socks. I am nibbling on a few potato chips and a mandarin orange (which are perfect right now, fyi), sipping from a mug of tea, pulling on my . There’s a little bit of piano music on the stereo.

Nowhere else, I think, and it’s true: I have no-where to go, no-one to meet, nothing to do except read and maybe watch a movie or go to bed early or stay up late or do whatever I choose. It feels amazing, probably because it is.

An admission: Some Saturday nights it’s all I can do to keep my eyes open, even well before 8p. If I’ve gotten up for my morning yoga class, thus denying myself the lovely pleasure of sleeping in past 9a — though it’s totally worth it — around late afternoon I want little else than to curl up with book and tea (or even a late cup of coffee), listen to the Thistle & Shamrock, and catch up on the ever-growing stack of magazines I’ve shoved under the coffee table. Maybe I’ll take a small nap or drift into a daydream for a time. Later I might make some sort of good dinner for myself or spruce up some leftovers or just have a sliced apple with cheese and then a bit of cake.

This past weekend was full of nights like this. It was the kind during which you send an email off to a friend before tumbling into bed, something along the lines of Do you ever have one of those Friday nights — maybe after a long week, when you are really tired, but not unhappy, just sort of pleasantly worn out, when everything feels just right? I am experiencing that right now and it is good. Hurrah for weekend nights at home with delicious red wine and netflix instant watch and eating my favorite things — quinoa, spinach, roasted cauliflower, shiitakes, tahini sauce — for dinner after a really decent (!) 8- mile run in the cold, with maybe a dish of chocolate-hazelnut gelato and a cup of rooibos tea later.

(The requisite wish-you-were here is of course implied if not written-out.)

I’m sure this little ode to a night in isn’t news. Yet it bears repeating: a sweet, quiet evening when you don’t have to wake up for work the next day does wonders for body and soul and engenders an overall feeling of bien-être. We must all treat ourselves to one every so often.

So: Saturday. I am sleepy and lazy and stretched-out and perfectly content. I feel grateful. It’s lovely. I pour myself a glass of wine and take a moment to savor the rare experience of having a bit of empty time stretching ahead of me after the rush of the holidays and the shock of returning back to work after some time away. I think about the chocolate cake I’ll have for dessert because this weekend does need to be treated to a little something. And then I think about dinner, because lazy weekend afternoons aside I do tend to get hungry and my fridge is stocked with good green things and also cheese that I should put to good use.

Into the kitchen I go. I turn on the oven and cook a sort of casserole, sipping my glass of Smoking Loon pinot. I puree broccoli and spinach and drape it over whole wheat pasta, adding add a generous sprinkling of cheese. I slide the pan into the oven and while it’s cooking I grate a and think about the (cold! long!) I have slated for the next day. I eat dinner (it’s delicious). I wash the dishes. I have tea and cake. Then I tuck myself into bed, dreaming of the next time I’ll be so lucky to repeat this stolen weekend all over again …

What’s your favorite ‘night off’ thing to do/eat?

Whole Wheat Rigatoni and Broccoli Spinach Sauce

Nicole Spiridakis
Perfect cold-weather fare, this whole wheat rigatoni and broccoli spinach sauce recipe is packed with vegetables, whole grains, and a bit of cheese.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 175 kcal


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 5 cups raw broccoli cut into small florets and stems
  • 2 cups spinach
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ cup Parmesan plus two tablespoons
  • cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • 4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts


  • Preheat the oven to 350℉.
  • Make the pasta according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, sautee the onion and garlic in the olive oil until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside.
  • To cook the broccoli, bring 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a large pot and stir in the broccoli. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes, until barely tender. Remove about half the broccoli and set aside. Add the spinach to the cooking pot and stir well until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat. Stir in the milk and parmesan and, using a stick blender or a food processor, blend to form a smooth sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Stir together the pasta, onion and garlic, broccoli, and sauce. Add the cheddar and and pine nuts and stir gently to combine. Pour into a medium-sized baking dish and sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top.
  • Bake until cheese is melted and sauce slightly bubbles, about about 15 minutes.


Calories: 175kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 9gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 256mgPotassium: 515mgFiber: 4gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 2215IUVitamin C: 105mgCalcium: 244mgIron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Let me know in the comments how it went!


  1. Hi Nicole:

    Easy: A one-person risotto with a glass of red wine, eaten on the sofa with my legs tucked under me and a movie.
    Or an early night, with a cozy reading lamp and bed.
    (For a long while, I always wondered why I only spared about 20 minutes for that last part. Now, I plan for the extended version!)
    I love this post!

  2. I stumbled across your website/blog from NPR after reading an article you wrote. I love the feel of your website and the great pictures of food and nature!

    Also, I recently started thinking of changing the way my family eats and we loved the beet/carrot salad. I’ll keep coming back here for more ideas…

    I’ve made a similar spinach sauce for pasta in the past, with white sauce, to avoid putting in too much cheese. I like the idea of adding broccoli though. It would thicken up the sauce, add flavor and is not something I would normally eat, so a plus, plus.

    Thanks so much & keep the creative juices flowing!


  3. My favorite ‘night off’ thing to do/eat? Hmmm. In the winter months I like things like hot gratins (recent winner: cauliflower, potato, leek) with cool salads. I usually drink sparkling water. Reading always fits in, maybe a little knitting, and sometimes watching movies I’ve already seen too many times. The movies must be watched during these solo nights because who would be crazy enough to join me while watching Stealing Beauty, Enchanted April, In the Mood for Love (and the like) for the umpteenth time? Snacking on Barbara’s Cheese Puffs might also find it’s way into the mix. Perhaps a few dark chocolate and sea salt cashews…

  4. I love those nights. They come best to me when my house is clean. I know it’s silly, but my mind relaxes when there’s not a to-do list all around me.
    And yes, the Mandarin oranges are SO perfect right now!

  5. Okay, so your blog is amazing and beautiful. Thank you for sharing your art with the world.

    Your night off sounds remarkably like my dream evening (sans about 5 miles on the run). This recipe looks delicious. On a quiet evening my hubby and I usually gather round a small fire (mind you we live in So Cal so we pretend there is some semblance of frigidity to warrant the blaze), pull together any leftover cheeses from the fridge and try them with different home-made jams made by my beautiful poet friend. Then we read a little Mary Oliver or Annie Dillard or Rumi or sometimes Harry Potter. For a sweet we will typical go for a dark chocolate square or chocolate chip cookies w/gray salt should I have any stowed in the freezer for instant gratification.

    Bien-être indeed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating