Sunday, November 27, 2011

Recipe for Easy Penne Pasta with Balsamic Sweet Potatoes, Baby Arugula (or Spinach), and Parmesan

Easy Penne Pasta with Balsamic Sweet Potatoes, Arugula, and Parmesan for Meatless Monday

Sometimes my best recipes happen when I have a certain ingredient I've been infatuated with but suddenly I want to do something different with it.  A few weeks ago that happened with my favorite Baby Arugula Salad.  Oh yes, I love that baby arugula salad, but that day I found myself with half a tub of baby arugula and a yearning for something different than a salad.  I knew arugula was great with pasta, and I always have sweet potatoes on hand, so I ended up creating this meatless dish that combines sweet potatoes sauteed and glazed with balsamic vinegar, wilted baby arugula, and a generous handful of good quality Parmesan cheese.  This was comforting and satisfying on a colder-than-I-might-have-wanted November day.

I know there are a few arugula-haters out there, so if you're not a fan of arugula I would recommend making this just like the recipe below but with baby spinach.  Other types of greens such as kale, swiss chard, or collard greens could be used, but they need more cooking so they'll need to be sauteed separately and then added to the pasta.  (You can find more meatless recipes by using the label Meatless Monday or checking Vegetarian Recipes in the recipe index.  For Meatless Monday ideas from other bloggers, check Meatless Monday at BlogHer, where I write a weekly post spotlighting one of the fabulous meatless recipe ideas I find around the web.)

Cut up one large orange-fleshed sweet potato into cubes not bigger than one inch square.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan and start to saute the sweet potatoes. 

I used Dreamfields Low-Carb Pasta to keep this a relatively South Beach Diet friendly dish.  Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until just barely al-dente.

Wash the arugula if needed, then put it in the strainer where you're going to drain the pasta and the hot water will wilt it just enough.

Once the sweet potatoes are cooked through and lightly browned, add 1 tablespoon good-quality balsamic vinegar to the pan and cook just until sweet potatoes are glazed with the vinegar.  Season sweet potatoes with salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

Drain the pasta over the arugula, saving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Add the drained pasta and arugula to the glazed sweet potatoes and toss.  Add the pasta cooking water and stir gently to combine.

Then stir in the freshly-grated Parmesan cheese and stir again gently.  (I stirred in most of the cheese but saved a little to add at the table.)  Serve hot.

Easy Penne Pasta with Balsamic Sweet Potatoes, Baby Arugula (or Spinach), and Parmesan
(Makes 4 generous servings; recipe created by Kalyn)

1 large orange-fleshed sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (often called yams in U.S. stores)
1 T + 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 oz. baby arugula or spinach (or can use other chopped greens, but they will need to be sauteed separately)
2 cups (dry) penne pasta (I used Dreamfields pasta)
1 T good-quality balsamic vinegar (or a little more)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste (for seasoning sweet potatoes)
2/3 cup coarsely-grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.  While the water heats, peel sweet potatoes and cut them into 1 inch pieces.  Heat olive oil in a large heavy frying pan (big enough to hold the finished pasta dish) and begin to saute the sweet potatoes over medium heat, stirring occasionally so they don't burn on one side.

When water boils, add the pasta, stir, and let it come back to a boil; then lower the heat to a medium simmer and cook just until the pasta is barely al-dente.  (That was 9 minutes for the Dreamfields pasta I used.)

(If you want to make this with kale, swiss chard, or collard greens, they need to be washed, chopped, and then sauteed in additional olive oil in a separate pan, about 10 minutes total cooking time.  Then add them to the sweet potatoes when you add the cooked pasta.)

When sweet potatoes are soft and cooked through (about 8-10 minutes), turn heat to low and add the other 1 tsp. of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Saute over low heat, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes more or until the sweet potatoes are all glazed with the vinegar. Season sweet potatoes well with salt and fresh-ground black pepper.

Wash the arugula if needed and then place in the bottom of the colander where you're going to drain the pasta. When pasta is done, scoop out 1/2 cup pasta cooking water; then pour the hot pasta over the arugula.  Let it drain for a minute or so, then add the pasta and arugula to the pan with the sweet potatoes and stir to combine.  Add the reserved pasta cooking water and stir gently again.  Then add most of the Parmesan cheese and stir again.  Serve hot, with the reserved Parmesan cheese to sprinkle over each serving at the table.

This does not reheat that well, and reheating Dreamfield's pasta makes it higher on the glycemic index, so I'd make as much of this as you'll eat at one time.

South Beach Suggestions: 
Sweet potatoes are much more low-glycemic than regular white potatoes, but they are still restricted to phase 2 or 3 of the South Beach Diet.  If you're making this for South Beach, it's important to use whole grain or Dreamfields pasta.

More Meatless Pasta Dishes You Might Enjoy:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Penne Pasta with Wilted Arugula, Basil, Ricotta, and Parmesan Sauce from Kalyn's Kitchen
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with No-Cook Sauce of Tomatoes, Arugula, Olives, and Capers from Kalyn's Kitchen
Vegetarian Lasagna with Kale and Mushroom-Tomato Sauce from Kalyn's Kitchen
Vegetarian Puttanesca for Two from Gluten Free Goddess
Pasta with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Creamy Lemon-Yogurt Sauce from Ezra Pound Cake
Pasta with Blue Cheese and Mushrooms from Nami Nami
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.) counter customizable free hit
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  1. This looks good - thanks for sharing. A pasta dish tonight seems like a nice reprieve from all the turkey & stuffing.

  2. where do you get that brand of pasta? that dish looks delish and i'd like to try it. we're trying to live low carb most of the time...

  3. Looks amazing. Pasta and potato is so delicious and decadent. Yum!

  4. Thanks Meg. I know I enjoyed it!

    Laura, I can find Dreamfields in most of the regular grocery stores here. If you follow the link that's in this post, there is a whole post about Dreamfields with a link to their website. You can also buy it at if you can't find certain shapes where you live.

    Stayathomefoodie, thanks. Glad you like it.

  5. I'm sure going to try this. My dear husband usually doesn't enjoy meatless meals like I do but hoping this will be enough! Thanks!

  6. Mmm! I like the sound of this. Love the photo, too.

  7. Suann, hope he enjoys this one. I have to laugh because recently one of the men in my extended family was giving me a bad time about Meatless Monday and he told me that men need their meat!

    Thanks Paz! So glad you like it.

  8. i've paired roasted sweet potatoes with pasta and arugula before and it was a match made in heaven! I need to add the balsamic though...I'm sure it makes the dish that much better!

  9. So stunning, I couldn't resist sharing the link with my readers too!

  10. Joanne, I did love the touch of balsamic in the sweet potatoes. I was originally thinking of roasting mine, but I got too impatient.

    Thanks Ruth. And fun to see that Presto Pasta Nights is still going on.

  11. I was just telling my mom last night that I have an obsession with sweet potatoes right now. I think I'll be craving this until I make it!

  12. Thanks Deborah! And I have a big bowl of sweet potatoes on my counter right now too!

  13. Kalyn, since reheating doesn't work well for Dreamfields pasta, do you happen to know if leftovers of this dish taste good cold?

  14. Julie, I didn't try it cold, but I'm guessing it would not be bad. I might sprinkle on a little more balsamic or some lemon juice when you eat it.

  15. I've been buying sweet potatoes like mad and always need new recipes. This one sounds great!

  16. I tried this last night- with spinach- it was a hit! Burnt the sweet potatoes a little, but they were still pretty good. My first time posting, but in this season of thankfulness, just wanted to say that I am thankful for you, your blog and your great ideas!

  17. Kris so glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for the nice words about my blog.

  18. Hi Kalyn,
    I love your blog and read it often. I make protein pancakes nearly every weekend!

    One thing I realized this time: my boyfriend was making a dish and asked me how long mine would take to prepare so we could sync this pasta with his chicken. I had to go through and guesstimate how long it would take to make this recipe. Its just a suggestion, but in the future maybe you can include the cooking time at the top so your readers can see how much time recipes will take, or you can sort them by time as well as ingredient, so if someone wants to make something healthy and fast or has a bit more time, they can search that way as well.

    Please keep up the fabulous work, your site is actually my homepage and I always check back to your 10 things you love about south beach to keep my motivated - I've lost 50 lbs so far using south beach, and hope to lose about 30 more with your help :).


  19. Hi Ali,

    Glad to hear you are enjoying the blog, and congratulations on the weight loss! Good luck on the next 30.

    I'm sorry but I have no plans to add the cooking time to recipes. There are several reasons I don't want to do that, but one of the main ones is that I already spend hours and hours on every post and I just can't do one more thing! (And I don't know how to calculate how long the average person would take to do certain things, plus I can't imagine how I'd find time to add that to the 900+ recipes I already have?)

  20. I am obsessed with sweet potates, pasta AND arugula....I am SO making this! Thanks for this awesome recipe!

  21. I made this tonight. It was yummy. Thanks, so much! I predict it will be a weekly dish for late fall in our kitchen when we overflow with sweet potatoes from the CSA and still have greens in the garden.

  22. Kalyn, this is absolutely my type of pasta dish. Yours looks so attractive and I'm certain I'll be giving this a try. I'm sharing it with my foodies on twitter :-) I'll be following you. Cheers!

  23. Lyn, thanks for the follow and hope you enjoy this if you try it.

  24. Good flavor. I had not tried sweet potatoes with pasta before. I love arugula so you can't go wrong there for sure. I did however have some trouble with my arugula clumping when I mixed it and pasta in with the potatoes. I would separate the strands with a fork and then as soon as I started tossing again it would reclump. Any suggestions or did I do something wrong

  25. I don't think there is anything much you can do about the arugula sticking together, although if you used larger arugula (not baby arugula) that would probably help.

  26. We felt that this was a little bland on its own, so we added red pepper flakes and ricotta...very good with these added!


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