Pasta with Spinach and Ricotta Cheese

by feastonthecheap on March 11, 2010

Mary Anne here. Recently I attended a casual dinner party at a friend’s fabulous home in Bridgehampton. One might assume the highlight of the night was the spectacular setting, the wide-open ocean views or the scintillating dinner conversation, but the true star of the event was the second course: Debra’s pasta smothered in a dreamy, creamy spinach and Ricotta cheese “sauce.” And I put sauce in quotes because the topping is so thick and rich it could stand alone as a veggie side dish. In fact, if one has a penchant for creamed spinach, this is definitely a new and very improved rendition!

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Pasta with Spinach and Ricotta Cheese
Serves 4

Note: This dish was originally prepared with Pignoli nuts, but if you keep only walnuts or pecans in your pantry, they work equally as well. I suspect cashews or peanuts might also add their own special magic. The sauce can be prepared up to two days before, but don’t add the nuts until just before serving or they’ll lose their crunch. And while it’s a wholly satisfying main course, it also works well as a first course, serving eight small portions. And by the way, this new fave whips up in under 30 minutes!

Ingredients:
½-lb. whole wheat pasta – $1.99
1 lb. fresh spinach, washed thoroughly, trimmed, and coarsely chopped – $3.69
1 cup part-skim Ricotta cheese – $1.89
1 cup freshly grated parmesan – stock
1/3-cup toasted chopped walnuts or whole pignoli nuts
1 Tablespoon butter – stock
1 Tablespoon olive oil – stock
Red pepper flakes to taste (optional) – stock
¼-cup low fat milk – stock
¾-cup reserved pasta water – stock
Salt & pepper to taste – stock
Grand Total Assuming Well-Stocked Pantry: $7.57
Total Per Main Course Serving: $1.89

Total Per First Course Serving: $0.94

Directions:
1. Place the chopped spinach in a colander or metal mesh basket and steam over boiling water until wilted, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan, toast the chopped walnuts or pignoli nuts over medium-low flame until fragrant. Stir frequently as nuts go from toasted to burnt very quickly.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. When the pasta is al dente, scoop out about ¾-cup of the pasta water before draining in a colander. Return the pasta to the pot and add the reserved pasta water and low fat milk. Stir to combine and keep warm over a low flame.

4. Meanwhile, in a larger skillet, melt the butter and heat the olive oil over medium flame. Combine the wilted spinach, Ricotta, parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes. Saute over low flame until the mixture has heated through and the cheeses are melting. Add the toasted nuts and serve over the prepared pasta. Sprinkle with additional parmesan cheese, salt & pepper, if desired.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Marcia Miller March 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

Well, as one of the lucky guests to enjoy this meal, I cannot wait to try it myself. One question…why is it necessary to steam the spinach to wilt it? Wouldn’t it be ok to skip a step and wilt it in the pan with the butter and olive oil?

I concur that the best thing about this simple dish was the thickness of the sauce!

Absolutely delish!

Reply

feastonthecheap March 12, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Nice to hear from you! You steam spinach first because no matter how you cook it, it needs to drain thoroughly. If you sauteed it with the cheeses and skipped the steaming process, the result would be wet and “gloppy” as it would be impossible to drain the veggie separately from the cheese. I’m no expert on the cellular structure of spinach, but it appears to be a vegetable that is comprised of a lot of its own water. Have fun with the recipe. It is definitely one of my favorites now!

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jody March 12, 2010 at 6:49 pm

OMG MaryAnne – is there anything to compare to creamed spinach? I think not! I am of the opinion that the body inherently “knows” what it needs. And mine always seems to NEED spinach! Sometimes I place baby spinach under the eggs in my poacher – when I turn them out – a double treat!
Have I told you and your gorgeous daughter how much I LOVE your blog? I do, I do.

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Connie Sylvester March 12, 2010 at 7:36 pm

AWESOME! I got the email this AM. . .worked 7 hours with community revitalization and was BEAT! Had all ingredients except the nuts so used my stash of Alabama Mammoth PECANS. . .super quick and delicious! Thanks!

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feastonthecheap March 12, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Great to hear from you. And it is super quick! We’re thrilled you enjoyed your dinner after such a long day. Cheers! M&M

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MRS. A March 13, 2010 at 8:10 pm

MARY ANNE, YOUR INTROS FOR YOUR RECIPES ON “FEAST ON THE CHEAP” ARE SO INTERESTING, AMUSING, & LOVING! YOU HAVE A WRITING TALENT FOR MAKING YOUR FAMILY & FRIENDS BECOME PART OF OURS. THANKS. XXOOXX P.S. YOUR LAST RECIPE IS ON MY MENU FOR NEXT WEEK .

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feastonthecheap March 13, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Thank you, Mrs. A! Your messages always brighten my day. No small feat given the weather tonight. I can’t wait to hear how you like the sauce. Give my love to your family, especially Mr. A!. xoxo

Reply

Blog is the New black January 12, 2011 at 2:37 pm

This looks delicious! I love the idea of ricotta “sauce”.

Reply

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