Despite the high spinach content, my kids rate it as "foot-up, foot-up, hands up" – whatever that means. In any event, this recipe makes a great alternative to boxed mac & cheese and cooks in about the same amount of time.
I found this recipe in a Cook's Illustrated magazine 3 years ago and, with a few modifications, it has made its way into our regular weeknight meal rotation. It's great for meatless-Monday or for a busy weeknight, since it comes together in ~30 minutes.
I tend to overestimate my commitment to spinach salads when I do my grocery shopping at the beginning of the week, so this is a great way to use up wilted greens.
Before cooking the spinach, I chop it into little tiny pieces so my kids don't pick it out and pile it on the side of the plate.
Pasta with Ricotta and Spinach:
1 lb curly pasta, like fusilli (I use gluten-free pasta)
1 carton whole-milk ricotta (15 oz)
2 T olive oil
1 pound baby spinach, chopped small
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 heavy cream
1 tsp lemon zest (1 large lemon)
1 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add pasta plus 1 T salt. Cook pasta until al dente. Reserve ~1 cup of pasta cooking water. Stir chopped spinach into the pot with the pasta and cook until wilted (1 minute). Drain the cooked pasta & spinach.
2. Leave pasta in the strainer. In the now empty pasta pot, heat olive oil, garlic, nutmeg, and cayenne over medium heat until fragrant (about 1 minute). Remove pan from heat and whisk in the ricotta, cream, lemon zest and juice, 1 tsp salt.
3. Add the cooked pasta/spinach to the ricotta-cream mixture and stir together. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and combine. Let the pasta rest, tossing frequently until sauce has thickened slightly & coats the pasta (2-4 minutes). Adjust the consistency by adding the reserved pasta water.
Serve with extra Parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper.