Yes, I’m a Lidia Bastianich fan. I love the pace of her PBS show “Lidia’s Kitchen,” which recently started its tenth season. The programs move along to keep my attention but go slow enough to see how she prepares the dishes from start to finish. Her enthusiasm for Italian food and scratch cooking is contagious.
Making her pasta dish that showcases equal amounts of pasta and fresh baby spinach, brings back happy memories of dining in her NYC restaurants. She coarsely chops the spinach. Me? I just throw in those little leaves whole, adding them in two batches,
The sweet starchiness of pasta balances the vegetal taste of the spinach. I like to use either fusilli, orecchiette, or farfalle. Whole milk ricotta comes to the party, along with a little half and half — as well as a smidgen of butter. Finally, some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
It’s a luscious weeknight meal accompanied with a crisp green salad and some crusty bread.
Pasta with Spinach and Ricotta
Yield: 6 servings
Salt, for salting pasta water
1 pound dried fusilli or orecchiette or farfalle
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped green onions, white and light green portions
1 pound clean baby spinach
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water
Garnish: 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Stir pasta into the boiling water. Cover the pot and reheat to boiling, stirring once or twice. When the water returns to a boil, uncover the pot. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until al dente — tender but firm — about 12 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water. Drain pasta.
2. Meanwhile, in large deep skillet (I use the biggest and deepest one I have) heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in half of the spinach and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and steam the spinach until wilted but still bright green, about 3 minutes, tossing half way through. Add remaining spinach and cook covered until wilted, about 2 minutes, tossing a couple of times.
3. In a small bowl stir the ricotta and half and half until smooth. Stir the ricotta mixture and the butter into the skillet. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add cooked pasta; toss to combine. Heat over low heat, adding enough of the reserved cooking water to make a sauce that lightly coats the pasta and heats it. Remove from heat and stir in grated cheese. Transfer the pasta to a warm serving platter or individual bowls and serve immediately.
Source: Adapted from lidiasitaly.com
Cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org