Ricotta Spinach Pasta

Since signing up for a weekly delivery of fruit and veg, I am finding myself with more variety in the veg department. This is a good thing, as I generally panic and go for the same vegetables each week if I'm not sure what I'm making.

My delivery this week included fresh bunches of leaf spinach, which I adore. The spinach was a bit too mature for salad, so I got some ricotta to go with it. My fridge yielded a single leek (from the same delivery order). After surfing the web randomly for ideas, here's what I came up with for dinner.

"a goodly amount of spinach" (I'd guess about 6-8 loose cups cleaned and washed), 1 small leek, a clove of garlic.

also with:
3/4 lb. fettucine
(not ideal: a stubby shape like fusilli or penne rigate would have been better, but I had fettucine)
1 c. low-fat ricotta, 1 c. half and half cream, 1 tbsp. butter
a handful of grated parmesan-like cheese
(parmesan is ideal, but I only had a little bit of random sheep's-milk cheese)

also also with:
olive oil, freshly-ground black pepper, salt.

Wash and drain spinach, using only the leafy part (no tails). Place spinach on cutting board in manageable-sized handfuls and slice into 1/4-in. strips.
Wash leek thoroughly and chop fairly small. Mince garlic. (Or peel and set aside, if you're using a garlic press)
Mix ricotta and half-and-half cream together in a bowl until ricotta is evenly distributed.
Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.

Getting down to business
In a large saucepan, heat a tbsp. of olive oil until it shimmers.
Add leek and sauté until the leeks are beginning to soften.
Add garlic and stir about until you can smell the lovely garlic smell, which is hardly any time at all.
Adding salt and pepper, add spinach and stir into the pan. Don't worry about any water on the spinach leaves -- this will steam the spinach.
Cover spinach and leeks and steam about 5 min, lifting the lid occasionally to stir things about and cook the spinach evenly. The spinach should be wilted but still bright green.
Add about a tbsp. of butter to the spinach, then pour the ricotta/cream mix into the pan, stirring again to mix. Reduce heat to med.-low and simmer uncovered for 5 min (or until the pasta is done, whichever is longer...)

When the pasta is cooked, drain thoroughly. Add pasta and sauce to a pan large enough to hold them, and toss thoroughly.

Finishing details
Bearing in mind that the cheese will thicken things up a bit...
If the sauce seems too thin, return it to the heat. If the sauce is a bit thick, add a little cream (or reserved water from the pasta, if you saved any).
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese until it is melty and evenly distributed.
Add plenty of ground pepper and salt.


My thoughts about this recipe:
I am still struggling to reach a happy relationship with low-fat ricotta and half-and-half cream as substitutes for the full fat options in all of their glory. There's no getting around the fact that low-fat ricotta (I used the Precious one) is grainy and dry compared to the real thing. Nor is half-and-half as deliciously unctuous as real cream.

I'd certainly make this again for myself, but it's nowhere near extravagant enough for fancy dinner pasta. (The leftovers made an awesome fritatta.)

There is, however, something to be said for saving the calories for dessert...

Posted by naomi on June 18, 2003 | TrackBack

I loved it when we were getting fruits and veggies delivered to our door. There is so much more variety and excitement when you don't know what it is you will be getting.

your meal sounds wonderful.

Posted by: karine on June 18, 2003 10:00 PM

Sounds so tasty!
If anyone here ever cooks with kids, i've done soup with a similar amount of spinich that requires thin slicing. Hand small kid scissors and spinach, and they can chiffonade it for you!

Posted by: meriko on June 19, 2003 8:29 AM
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