I completely botched a recipe. I guess that “completely” might be a bit of an overstatement, but it certainly felt that that way when I was trying to mix raw spinach into a pound of cooked pasta in a 3 quart saucepan. It seemed like a novel idea– the piping hot pasta would surely steam the spinach; my pot was just smaller than what I was supposed to use. I was wrong though. The test cooks at America’s Test Kitchen did not say to use the residual pasta steam to cook spinach. They really did plan you to make the pasta dish in a pretty easy manner.
Although my result was great, and the dish was a success, I’ve made it again the correct way, and man, is it so much easier cooking it how the professionals meant it to be cooked.
This is an ideal dish that fits the weather year-round, but it particularly reminds of an early spring day that surprises you in the midst of the cold. Ricotta, spinach and pasta with a hint of lemon– you really can’t go wrong, even if you don’t read the recipe directions correctly like me. The lemon lightens it up, and the flavors meld together fabulously. This is perfect for a lighter dinner, and it’d also be good as a side dish or with the addition of a grilled chicken to make it a bit heartier. It’s easy, it doesn’t take much time or money and it’s delicious. What more can you ask for of a weeknight dinner?
Notes: My grocery store doesn’t have fusilli. It seems to look like rotini, so that’s what I used.
The original recipe calls for the spinach to be chopped. I haven’t done this because it’s so much easier to take the spinach from the container to the pot than from the container to the chopping block to the pot. If you feel like chopping it, it will make the spinach less clumpy (something that tends to happen).
11 ounces (1 ⅓ cups) whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 pound fusilli, rotini, or another spiral-shaped pasta
1 pound (16 cups, also one of the big containers) baby spinach
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup heavy cream
half of the zest of a lemon
juice of half of a lemon
Parmesan cheese for serving
1. Combine 1 cup ricotta, 1 tablespoon oil, ¼ teaspoon pepper and ⅛ teaspoon salt in a small bowl; set aside.
2. Cook pasta in salted water.
3. While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons oil with garlic, nutmeg and cayenne pepper in a small saucepan over medium heat, cooking until fragrant (about 1 minute). Remove the pan from heat, and whisk in ⅓ cup ricotta, cream, lemon zest and juice and ¾ teaspoon salt.
4. Take 1 cup of the cooking water out of the pasta pot and reserve it for later use. Stir spinach into the pot of pasta and water, cooking until wilted, about 30 seconds. Drain pasta and spinach, and return them to the pot.
5. Add ricotta sauce to the pasta; toss to combine. Let the pasta rest a few minutes to thicken the sauce, stirring occasionally, and adjust the consistency if need be with some of the reserved pasta water. (I used about ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water.)
6. Move the pasta to a serving dish and top with spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture made in step 1. Pass Parmesan to sprinkle on top.