Thursday, August 12, 2004
PASTA WITH SPICY WILTED SPINACH AND TOASTED BREAD CRUMBS
Pasta e Verdura again. And Jack Bishop sure enjoys those long recipe names, doesn’t he? This is another of my favorites, and I’ve made it many times. I’m a spinach aficionado, but even if you’re not, the red pepper flakes (a fabulous secret weapon that enlivens just about anything), garlic, parsley, and cheese add enough dimensions of flavor to overcome that. Unlike some of the other things I’ve been making lately, this is just as good no matter what time of the year I have it or where I buy my ingredients (because spinach brings out my secret laziness, and I only ever buy it prewashed and bagged).
As usual, I made the bread crumbs from some French bread I had in the freezer (Jack recommends “stale Italian, French, or sourdough bread”). I defrosted it and tore it into crumbs by hand (I like my crumbs coarse, baby), but an easier way would be to grind up the bread in your blender or food processor.
By the way, I’ve modified the recipe a little. Sorry, Jack.
½ cup coarse white bread crumbs (homemade; the crumbs, not the bread, I mean)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
5 tablespoons olive oil
1½ pounds fresh spinach, washed, stemmed, and roughly chopped
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (This will make it pretty spicy. I like it that way, but use ½ teaspoon if you prefer things milder.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound linguine or other long, thin pasta
1. Start by putting 4 quarts of salted water in a pot on the stove over high heat for cooking the pasta.
2. While the water is heating, set a large, deep, heavy skillet (use one that has a lid—you’ll need that later) over medium heat and put 1 tablespoon olive oil in it to heat. When the oil is warm, add the bread crumbs and stir to coat them. Cook them until they're crispy and golden brown (be careful not to let them burn). Yum. While they're cooking, mix the parsley and the cheese in a small bowl. When the bread crumbs are done, add them to the bowl.
3. When the water starts boiling, add the linguine and cook until al dente.
4. Return the skillet to the burner, keeping the heat on medium, and add the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil. When it's warm, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, sautéing them until the garlic is deeply colored but not browned or burned, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and salt to the skillet. Toss several times to coat the leaves with the oil, then cover the pot and cook (removing the lid occasionally to stir) until the spinach has wilted, about 5 minutes.
5. Before draining the pasta, scoop out ½ cup of the starchy pasta water and set it aside. Then drain the pasta and dump it in the pan with the spinach. Add the toasted bread crumb mixture and several tablespoons of the pasta water, and toss everything together until well mixed (you can add more pasta water as needed if the pasta seems too dry). Sprinkle each serving with black pepper and additional Parmesan if desired.
Time: Jack says 25 minutes, but it seemed to be more like 30-40 for me.