Monday, April 28, 2008
It's Easy Being Green
It's been a while since I've become obsessed with an ingredient, but the time has come yet again for me to use something a hundred different ways. There's nothing I like better than a multi-tasking ingredient that can be kept in the fridge or pantry and used in a variety of different applications. My current obsession is spinach, which does double duty not only as a multi-tasker, but earns bonus points for being incredibly good for you. There's a reason Popeye ate his spinach by the canful, although it's rumored iron content has been inflated over the years. It certainly has more iron than the average vegetable, but isn't really brimming with it. Spinach is actually super rich in vitamins like A and C, and a really great source of antioxidants. The less it's cooked the more its health benefits are preserved, so if it's cooked, steaming or quick boiling are the way to go in order to preserve as many nutrients as possible.
I always go organic when buying spinach (which is in season in spring and fall) since it's been rated as one of the most pesticide contaminated produce products out there. This weekend I decided to use some baby spinach in a pasta dish from Great Food Fast that I'd been dying to make for the past few months. It's a spinach pasta dish that manages to be a really easy and delicious one pot meal with two types of cheese and minimal effort. The dish fuses spinach with pine nuts and Parmesan, two of it's favorite partners in crime, and throws in a big spoonful of ricotta for good measure. A few glugs of good olive oil rounds out the last of the ingredients. The nutty aftertaste of the spinach plays really well with the pine nuts and the sweetness of the ricotta. The Parmesan is perfect for adding a bit of saltiness and depth to the dish, and the fruitiness of the olive oil brings it all together and really helps it glisten.
The whole dish was done in less than 10 minutes and was absolutely delicious. I did change the recipe a bit, for example, I used tagiatelle instead of penne (which I find hard to pierce with the fork), and I also used more olive oil than the recipe's 2 tablespoons (there was no other liquid called for). I also reserved a bit of the pasta water and added it to create more of a sauce and for a bit of added moisture. It was perfect because the ricotta melted into the warm liquid but still stuck nicely to the pasta once mixed in on the plate. Here's the recipe as I adapted it:
Spinach Tagliatelle with Spinach, Ricotta and Pine Nuts
1/2 pound spinach tagliatele
3 cups spinach
1/3 cup pine nuts (toasted in the oven until just browned)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 heaping Tbsp ricotta cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
1. Cook tagliatele in a large pot of salted, boiling water according to package directions. Add spinach to pot during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain and return to pot.
2. Add olive oil to pot and mix well. Add pasta water a few drops at a time until the pasta looks moist, like it's covered in a thin sauce and stir to combine.
3. Plate pasta and spinach and top with ricotta. Sprinkle with Parmesan and pine nuts. Enjoy!