Vegetarian Carbonara with Spinach

This healthy carbonara was unbelievably creamy. It was also absolutely loaded with fresh spinach. Amazing!

The purpose of the smoked gouda topping was to mimic the smokiness of the missing pancetta or bacon in this lighter, vegetarian version of “carbonara.” I thought is was equally delicious with and without it.

This recipe is from The New York Times, contributed by Kay Chun. I used whole wheat spaghetti and increased the garlic. It was a quick and delicious weeknight dish.

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 7-8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 pound fresh baby spinach
  • red-pepper flakes, to taste, optional
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan (2 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup grated smoked Provolone or Gouda (1 1/2 ounces)
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve 2 cups cooking water and drain the pasta.
  3. Return the pasta and reserved cooking water to the pot and heat over low. Add the butter and onion-garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until most of the liquid is absorbed and sauce is slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add the spinach, season with salt, plenty of pepper and red-pepper flakes, if using, and stir until spinach is wilted.
  5. Stir in the Parmesan and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.
  6. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls and top each with 2 tablespoons smoked cheese. Finish with more black pepper, if desired.

Roasted Chicken Thighs over Herbed Pea & Spinach Puree

Another green sauce! The last one, for now… 🙂

This is a wonderful, quick and healthy dish. As a sauce fan, I loved the idea of serving the roasted chicken over a colorful and tasty vegetable purée.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in, and reduced the oven temperature to accommodate roasting potatoes and asparagus simultaneously. I also incorporated pan drippings into the vegetable puree. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, divided, and 1 T fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving, optional
  • 3 T freshly grated Pecorino Romano, divided
  • 3 T  extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, on convection roast.

  2. Cook peas in a small pot of boiling salted water 1 minute. Drain; transfer to a food processor.

  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 tablespoon juice, 1 tablespoon cheese, and 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper; process until texture is similar to hummus. Add cilantro and 1 packed cup spinach; puree.

  4. Pat chicken dry; season with salt and pepper.

  5. Stir together remaining 2 tablespoons cheese and 1/2 teaspoon zest.

  6. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add chicken; cook until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Spoon off fat and incorporate into puree, to taste. Discard excess fat left in the pan.

  7. Flip chicken and sprinkle with cheese mixture. Transfer to oven; roast until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

  8. Serve chicken over puree, with lemon wedges, if desired.

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Spinach Spaetzle with Bacon and Sage

This comfort food dish is truly season-less. It’s the easiest fresh pasta recipe EVER. These little German dumplings, or batter noodles, are cooked in minutes. The noodles can be prepared several hours in advance- finishing the dish by sautéing them with bacon and sage just prior to serving.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I modified the cooking method by using a potato ricer to form the noodles. In addition, I increased the spinach as well as the water in the batter. We ate it as a main dish but it would also be delicious as an indulgent side dish.

Yield: 6 servings

Time: about 1 hour

  • 6 ounces baby spinach leaves
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • coarse salt
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces bacon or pancetta, cut crosswise into thin slices
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 12 fresh sage leaves
  • grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
  1. Drop spinach leaves into boiling water to blanch, about 30 seconds, then transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain spinach and squeeze dry.
  2. Put cooked spinach in a blender or food processor with the eggs and yolks and blitz briefly to make a green purée.
  3. Put spinach purée in a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, the nutmeg and the pepper.
  4. Beat in flour and 3/4 cup cold water to make a wet, sticky batter-like dough. Beat for 5 minutes, until lump free. If the mixture seems too stiff, beat in a few more tablespoons cold water. (Because I used a potato ricer, I thinned the batter to a more runny consistency by incorporating an additional 3 T of water.)
  5. Leave batter to rest at room temperature, covered, for 15 minutes. Prepare an ice-water bath. Place a colander within the ice-water bath.
  6. Bring a large wide pot of well-salted water to a boil.
  7. Holding the potato ricer over the boiling water, fill it with 1-2 ladles of batter; close and press the batter into the water. IMG_3886
  8. Let the spaetzle cook for 1 minute or so, until they rise to the surface. Remove with a skimmer and immediately cool in the colander in the ice water. Continue until all batter is used. Drain cooked spaetzle and blot dry. (I placed the spaetzle on a rimmed baking sheet which was lined with several layers of paper-towels.) *Note: The recipe may be prepared up to this point several hours before serving.*
  9. Just before serving, set a large wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and let it render without browning much, about 2 minutes. Pour off fat and leave bacon in pan. (To decrease the mess, I wiped out the fat with paper towels.)
  10. Add the butter and let it foam, then add sage leaves and let sizzle for 30 seconds.
  11. Add the cooked spaetzle and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon until heated through and lightly browned.
  12. Transfer to a warm serving bowl, if desired. Serve immediately with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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Mushroom, Spinach, Barley, & Bacon Soup

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My brother gave me Ottolenghi’s “Plenty” for Christmas- it was on my wish list. To be silly he gave it to me with another cookbook titled “Bacon Nation”! The funniest part of this story is that I tried a recipe from “Bacon Nation” first. 🙂 This soup was ultra-flavorful, hearty, and LOADED with mushrooms. The spinach and carrots gave an otherwise “brown” soup a wonderful pop of color. The house smelled divine as it cooked too! This recipe was adapted from Bacon Nation by Peter Kaminsky & Marie Rama.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 8 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I used nitrate-free)
  • 2 medium-size onions, finely chopped
  • 24 oz cremini mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimmed, and sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 10 oz white button mushrooms,  wiped clean, stems trimmed, and sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • .88 oz mixed dried wild mushrooms (including porcini, shiitake, black, & oyster mushrooms)
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T dry sherry, divided
  • 8 cups stock (I used 4 cups homemade Turkey Stock, and 4 cups boxed chicken stock)
  • 4 large carrots, trimmed, peeled, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups pearl barley (I used par-cooked barley from Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 6 oz baby spinach

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  1. Cook the bacon in a soup pot or large saucepan over medium heat until browned but not too crisp and most of the fat is rendered, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often and adjusting the heat as necessary.
  2. Add the onions and cook over medium-high heat until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the fresh and dried mushrooms and the garlic and cook until the mushrooms release their liquid, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. IMG_7324
  4. Add 6 T of the sherry and let boil for about 1 minute to reduce the liquid slightly.
  5. Stir in the stock, carrots, barley, bay leaf, and 3 cups water. Cover the pot and let the soup come to a boil. Then, reduce the heat as necessary and let the soup simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the barley is barely tender, 35 to 40 minutes for standard barley, 15-20 minutes for par-cooked barley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Add the thyme and the remaining 6 T sherry and let simmer until the flavors blend, about 3 minutes.
  7. Add the spinach, increase the heat to high, cover the pot, and cook the spinach until just wilted, about 1 minute. Remove and discard the bay leaf before serving the soup.

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One Year Ago:

If you like this you may also like:

Spinach Spoon Bread

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This Southern spoon bread is a more savory version than the sweet potato spoon bread that I served last Thanksgiving. It also had more of a “light” cornbread texture than the pudding texture more typical for spoon bread. This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Tanya Holland. I made it early Thanksgiving day and kept it warm in the warming drawer. We enjoyed the leftovers for breakfast too!

  • Serves: 12
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the dish
  • 12 ounces baby spinach
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup medium-grind yellow cornmeal (I used coarse cornmeal/grits)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Scant 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or very large enameled cast-iron skillet. In a saucepan of boiling water, cook the spinach just until wilted, about 30 seconds. Drain and cool under running water, then squeeze out as much water as possible. Finely chop the spinach.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the egg yolks, cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, white pepper and the 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Fold in the chopped spinach.
  3. In a clean bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold the whites into the batter and scrape it into the prepared baking dish.
  4. Bake the spoon bread in the center of the oven for about 35 minutes (on convection) to 45 minutes, until golden. Let cool slightly, then serve.
Make Ahead: The spoon bread can be made earlier in the day and kept at room temperature; reheat in a 325° oven.

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