Creamed Spinach Pasta. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

Gretchen McKay

By Gretchen Mckay | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Let’s face it. Not everyone enjoys a raging love affair with fish, be it fried, broiled, baked or minced into ketchup-dipping fish sticks. Which can be something of a problem if you’re trying to follow the rules during the 40-day Lenten season, when the flesh of “warm-blooded animals” is off the table on Fridays.

One easy solution is pasta. Not only is it inexpensive and appealing to kids but also it serves as a ready canvas for creative cooks for any number, or combination, of toppings, sauces and mix-ins. Why limit yourself to marinara, Alfredo or pesto when a sauce crafted from cream, cheese and leafy baby spinach comes together in minutes and tastes so fresh?

Why, indeed.

CREAMED SPINACH PASTA

  • ¾ cup ricotta cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • ¾ pound long pasta such as tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 pound baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Grated pecorino Romano cheese,

In large bowl, combine ricotta with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and return to rolling boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup cooking water. While pasta cooks, prepare sauce. Toast pine nuts in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally so they do not burn, about 3 minutes. Remove and set aside. Wipe skillet clean and melt butter over medium-low heat. Add garlic and saute until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Add spinach and cook until it wilts, about 4 minutes more. Add cream, bring to simmer and cook until sauce begins to thicken slightly, about 2 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Scoop pasta directly into skillet and toss to combine. Add pasta and spinach mixture to bowl of ricotta off heat and toss to coat, adding ¼ cup pasta water or more (up to 1 cup) as needed to loosen up the sauce. Plate in bowls and sprinkle with pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Pass grated cheese at the table. Serves 4.

Source: “Back Pocket Pasta: Inspired Dinners to Cook on the Fly” by Colu Henry (Clarkson Potter; February 2017; $28)

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