So yesterday’s lentil soup got the thumbs up from the little guy, who had it over rice this evening (spicy chorizo bits removed), and from his godmother, who took her share to work today for lunch (spicy chorizo bits most definitely left in!).
While we were eating that, I took my own advice and put a pot on the boil, because in my life you always have to be thinking about the next day’s grub.
The quicky solution for tomorrow’s lunch? What I call spinach pasta. It originated from the aglio-olio-pepperoncino dish that I learned to make immediately upon moving to Italy many years ago.
The original recipe is just good extra virgin olive oil, sauteed garlic and some hot, red pepper flakes on spaghetti. Couldn’t be more simple or more tasty. Somewhere along the way I started adding chopped spinach to the mix. Then, when Leandro was born, the hot, red pepper flakes fell out (which is really too bad, but, I anticipate, only temporary).
It became one of those sauces that I made a lot of, pureed and froze in ice cube trays to defrost for his lunches once he was eating solids and going to daycare.
(Important mommy note: start your kids on strong flavors from the beginning. Bland is bullshit and starts you on a long and boring road of pasta with butter and crappy chicken nuggets from which you and the children may never entirely recover).
Now that he’s a big boy, he gets the spinach chunkier and he loves it with loads of grated Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano or Gran Padano — I spring for the real grating cheese, as the powdered fake stuff is truly appalling. This is the recipe most requested by his caregivers at school! Make enough to freeze half and use it within a month.
BONUS EASINESS – frozen spinach works best! Yeah, I am a goddess.
Spinach and Garlic Pasta (serves 4)
1 lb frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
Abundant grated Parmigiano Reggiano, Gran Padano or other high quality grating cheese (do not add if freezing)
1 lb pasta of your choice (I like the corkscrew kind, like fusilli, because it traps more spinach that will then make it into a kid’s mouth). Use half the amount if freezing half the sauce.
Boil up the pasta following the package instructions and for God’s sake add the salt. Add lots of it. Please. Most of it will go down the drain and pasta cooked in bland water will taste like cardboard.
Now if I don’t feel like dirtying another pot, I just dump and drain the pasta when it’s ready and make the sauce in the same pot. Put it back on the heat to dry (lower it to medium), get the oil in there and warm it up, add the garlic, sautee until fragrant and just golden (lower the heat more to be safe), (ADD hot red pepper flakes now if you want some heat) then add the chopped spinach and coat thoroughly, warming through and adding about 1/4 tsp of salt. At this point, remove what you plan to freeze, then grate loads of cheese into the remaining spinach mixture. Add the pasta and serve, or pack up for heatable lunches the next day. Really. It’s that easy.
Variations: We get a lot of chard and collard greens and kale from our C.S.A. Remove the hard stems and chop fine, then give them the same treatment as the thawed spinach, except I cook it longer and add water in 1/4 Cup increments during the cooking until tender. I can fill it in with a last minute handful of spinach too. Leandro never knows the difference and dark leafy greens provide a lot of nutritional punch (even calcium!)