This dish makes creamed spinach the main event rather than a decadent side. This version is actually less indulgent as well. It incorporates milk instead of cream and uses pasta and its starch as a thickener.
The original article actually states that classic creamed spinach isn’t that good. I love creamed spinach! For years, my husband and I used to celebrate his birthday at a steakhouse- the creamed spinach saved me. (I’m not a steak fan!)
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle. I used loads of fresh greens from my CSA share rather than frozen chopped spinach. We ate it as a vegetarian main dish (with roasted CSA veggies on the side) but it could also be served as a hearty side, of course. Creamy and filling.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
5 cups whole milk, plus more as needed (I added an additional cup of 1% milk)
1 pound stemmed and sliced fresh greens (I used a combination of kale, collard and cauliflower greens) OR 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach
2 wide lemon peel strips
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
dash of red pepper flakes, optional
10 to 12 ounces ditalini, orzo or pearl couscous
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
If using fresh greens, stem, slice, and wash them.
Place the greens in a steamer basket in a large pot (I used a pasta pot); cook until wilted, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Strain the steamed greens to drain as much excess liquid as possible. (I used a ricer for this task.)
Chop the steamed and strained greens; set aside.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 4 minutes.
Add the 5 cups milk, chopped greens (or spinach), lemon peel, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, if using, freshly ground black pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the greens (or frozen spinach) with your spoon, until the greens have softened and the milk is just simmering, 5 to 10 minutes.
Add the pasta and cook, stirring often and vigorously, until the pasta is al dente, 20 to 25 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer. If it looks dry at any point, add more milk. (I ultimately added an additional cup of milk.) The mixture will continue to thicken as it sits, so it’s okay if the sauce looks a little soupy.
Once the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat, discard the lemon peels, and stir in the Parmesan until melted.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with more Parmesan.
This comfort food dish was very well-received in my house. Everyone in my family was fighting over the leftovers! It was easy, full-flavored, and absolutely delicious.
The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I modified the proportions and substituted sour cream for the heavy cream. I also adjusted the consistency of the finished dish with pasta cooking water. Great.
Yield: Serves 8
6 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 3/4 lbs ground pork, turkey, beef, or chicken, preferably dark meat
2 medium onions, finely chopped
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 Calabrian chiles in oil, finely chopped, or 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
7 T double-concentrated tomato paste
7 T sour cream or heavy cream
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs (20 to 24 oz) rigatoni, gemelli or other short pasta
2 oz Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
basil leaves, for serving
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium to medium-high.
Add ground meat in 12–14 pieces (patties), spacing evenly, and season with salt.
Let cook, undisturbed, until deeply browned underneath, about 3 minutes.
Turn over and cook until deeply browned on opposite side, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. (It won’t be cooked through.)
Add remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to pot over medium heat.
Cook onion, stirring often, until softened and just beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add chiles/red pepper flakes and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until paste is slightly darkened in color, about 3 minutes.
Return meat to the pot and break up into small pieces.
Add sour cream/heavy cream and 2 1/4 cups water.
Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat, and simmer gently until liquid is reduced by one third and flavors have come together, 15–20 minutes.
Season ragù with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.
Add pasta to ragù along with 1 cup pasta cooking liquid and Parmesan.
Cook, stirring and adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes.
Transfer to a serving dish or individual bowls. Garnish with basil and reserved Parmesan. Serve.
Growing up, my mom frequently made what we referred to as “white spaghetti” (aka spaghetti without red sauce!). The pasta was coated with garlicky olive oil and topped with crispy garlic slices, broccoli florets, and Parmesan cheese. Classic. 🙂
This version is from Old World Italian: Recipes & Secrets from Our Travels in Italy by Mimi Thorisson. The recipe is included in the “Roman Pastas” section of this beautiful book. It is a little bit more indulgent than my mom’s rendition because it contains more cheese as well as heavy cream. I loved that the broccoli was chopped and incorporated into the creamy sauce.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
1 large head broccoli and stems (about 1 pound or 450g), cut into small florets and coarsely chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
Add the broccoli and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Remove with a kitchen spider or slotted spoon and set aside, keeping the water boiling to cook the pasta.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 2 cups (500ml) of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the empty pot and set aside.
Chop the onion and mince the garlic in a food processor. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add the onion and sauté until tender and golden, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper.
Pour the cream over the mixture and cook for 15 seconds. Remove from heat.
Transfer the broccoli mixture to a food processor and process until roughly creamy.
Add the broccoli sauce and a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water to the pot of pasta and set the pot over medium heat. Cook, tossing frequently, adding more pasta water as needed to adjust the consistency, until the pasta is well coated, 1 to 2 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl, if desired. Scatter the grated Parmesan on top and serve immediately.
I recently made a delicious skillet gnocchi dish developed by Ali Slagle for The New York Times which was very reminiscent of this dish. Apparently, Ali Slagle inspired Sarah Jampel to create this version for Bon Appétit.
I loved that this variation incorporated arugula- one of my favorites- and coated it with a dressing made with roasted garlic. It was a quick, easy, and tasty summer meal. Great.
Yield: Serves 4
1/2 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges (I cut it into 8 wedges)
2 to 4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
4 cups (2 pints) cherry or grape tomatoes
1 17.6-oz. package shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi (I used Trader Joe’s)
4 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling, if desired
1 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more
freshly ground black pepper
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 to 3 cups baby arugula (I used 3 cups of my CSA arugula)
1 cup basil leaves, large leaves torn
2 oz Parmesan, shaved (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 425°. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.
Toss onion, garlic, tomatoes, gnocchi, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1 1/4 tsp Diamond Crystal or 3/4 tsp Morton kosher salt on a rimmed baking sheet to coat. Season generously with pepper and toss again to combine.
Roast, stirring once or twice, until gnocchi are golden and starting to crisp, most of the tomatoes have burst, and onion is golden, 25–30 minutes.
Remove garlic from baking sheet, peel, and place in a small bowl. Mash with 1/4 tsp salt (garlic should be quite soft). (I used 4 cloves of garlic.)
Whisk in lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil into the mashed garlic. Season dressing with pepper and more salt, if needed.
Add arugula, basil, and Parmesan to baking sheet and drizzle dressing over; toss to combine.
Divide among plates and drizzle with a little more oil, if desired.
This is a crowd-pleasing and quick summer dish. It was a wonderful meal served with a giant green salad. The original recipe notes that any summer vegetable, or a combination, can be used instead of the fresh corn. Chopped tomatoes, broccoli, summer squash, or even green beans would work.
This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I modified the proportions. Great!
Yield: Serves 6
16 oz rigatoni
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 sprigs basil, plus 1 cup leaves for serving
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (or other mild red pepper flakes)
fresh corn kernels from 3 large ears
5 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 oz (about 1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high.
Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, 6–8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium and cook sliced garlic in same pot, stirring occasionally, until light golden around edges, about 2 minutes.
Add basil sprigs and Aleppo pepper; cook, stirring, until basil is wilted, about 1 minute.
Place an ear of corn upright in a medium sized bowl. Use a knife to cut off the kernels. (The bowl will prevent the kernels from flying all over the counter.)
Add corn and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water to the pot and cook, stirring often, until corn is mostly tender, about 3 minutes.
Stir in pasta and 1 cup pasta cooking water.
Add butter and cook, stirring, until butter is melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.
Add the Parmesan in several additions, stirring after each addition until sauce is smooth.
Return sausage to pot and cook until flavors meld, about 1 minute. If needed, add additional pasta cooking liquid to loosen the sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Place in a serving bowl or individual shallow bowls. Top with basil leaves and more Parmesan and serve.