Everyone knows that in order to make great pasta, you’ve got to make a great sauce, too. But while the pasta part is a cinch for anyone who can boil water, the sauce part requires a bit more strategy. Luckily, we’re here to lead the way: we’re making a tomato cream sauce that’s as timeless as can be, thickening it with a roux (that’s a fancy term for using flour to make your sauce unctuous and spoon-coating). It clings to each curl of cavatappi, giving you tangy, dairy-rich goodness with each bite.
Produced in a facility that processes milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybean.
Wash and dry all produce. Preheat broiler to high or oven to 500 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Mince or grate garlic. Roughly chop parsley. Once water is boiling, add cavatappi to pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 9-11 minutes. Drain.
Place 1 TBSP butter in a small bowl. Microwave on high until melted, about 30 seconds. (TIP: Alternatively, melt butter in a small pan.) Add panko and half the parsley to bowl and combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a drizzle of oil in a large, tallsided pan over medium-high heat (use an ovenproof pan if you have one). Add half the pancetta (use the rest as you like) and cook, tossing, until crisp, 4-5 minutes. Transfer pancetta to a papertowel-lined plate with a slotted spoon, keeping as much oil in pan as possible.
Lower heat under pan to medium. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until starting to brown, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in milk, stirring vigorously to incorporate into flour. Bring to a boil. Cook until thickened, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat, then add Parmesan and stir until melted.
Add half the tomatoes and half the spinach to pan (use the rest as you like). Stir to wilt spinach (if leaves do not wilt, return pan to medium heat). Season with salt and pepper. Stir in cavatappi, pancetta, and remaining parsley. Season with salt and pepper. (TIP: If your pan is not ovenproof, transfer mixture to a small baking dish at this point.)
Sprinkle crust mixture over top of pasta. Broil or bake until crust is golden, 2-3 minutes. Divide pasta between plates and serve.