Pasta with Creamy Spinach Marinara

Imagine if creamed spinach and marinara sauce married and had a baby. This sauce is a result of that coupling. Light and vibrant from the herby marinara, and rich and thick from garlicky spinach and parmesan cheese. You could eat the sauce with a spoon, by itself. But add the pasta (and fresh mozzarella) and you'll have a party on your palate.

And it's one heckuva party! All that flavor, with just a handful of ingredients. I crafted this dish out of necessity - working with what I already had on hand. I had pasta (always do), cans of tomato sauce (always do) and then the rest was an experiment. I took my half-package of spinach and a bunch of dried herbs and spices and created the most scintillating sauce ever. And those fresh mozzarella balls? Yes, they added to the party, but (truth), they weren't essential. The dish shines without them.  As I mentioned below, you could also use shredded mozzarella...
Same with the fresh basil. Yes, it's colorful and adds that burst of "Hey I'm a fresh herb", but there's also dried basil in the sauce... If you have it use it, if you don't, don't fret. Or use parsley.

About the pasta: Any shape works here. I wanted to use up my orecchiette (pasta shaped like clamshells), but penne, or rigatoni, or elbow macaroni would have been equally pleasurable.

About the spinach: I chose fresh baby spinach leaves because that's what I had. If you have frozen, dig it out of the freezer and go to town.

Pasta with Creamy Spinach Marinara

12 ounces pasta of choice, I used orecchiette
2 cups tomato sauce, from a carton or can
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cups baby spinach leaves, or frozen spinach, thawed
Fresh mozzarella balls (such as bonconcini or ciliegiene), or shredded mozzarella, optional
Chopped fresh basil for serving, optional

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and cover with foil to keep warm.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or high-sided skillet, whisk together the tomato sauce, milk, parmesan cheese, oregano, dried basil, onion powder, garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Set the pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Fold in the cooked pasta and spinach and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to heat through and wilt the spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve with mozzarella and fresh basil on top, if using.
Serves 4