Tag Archives: easy pasta

Pasta with Tomatoes, Spinach, Goat Cheese and Black Olives (feeds a crowd!)

22 Mar

The planting season is picking up at Restoration Farm, the C.S.A. that we belong to at the historic Old Bethpage Restoration Village here on Long Island. I say that as if I were right in there, pruning the apple trees and preparing the beds and raising those heritage birds, getting dirty and sweaty in honest, sacred labor on the land.

Uh, well, not exactly.

Farming has always been more theoretical than hands-on in my life. Sure I have come out to volunteer at the farms we have belonged to, but in all honesty, since I’ve had Leandro, it’s been more about picking a couple of pea pods, then taking him to see the pigs or the chickens  or to the bathroom, rush, rush, than it has been about actually doing anything useful in an agricultural sense.

This year will be different, in two ways:

1) We have a little more sun in our yard these days, thanks to some trees that had to come down. Last year we did some experimental container gardening to gauge where we could actually grow vegetables. Now that we’ve established that, we will be putting in some raised beds this year and trying to grow more stuff for ourselves.

2) Leandro is more self-sufficient and mature and I have hopes that our volunteering days at the farm will be less like outings to the zoo and more like real contributions.Call me crazy, but a girl’s gotta dream…..

In the meantime, we attended the season-opening potluck at the farm last Sunday and — while I listened with longing, yearning, and almost dismay as the real farm folks told me with great enthusiasm about everything they’ve been doing in the last few weeks — I tried to keep positive about what is to come for me in the world of growing things! (and we have started peas, tomatoes, peppers and culantro from seed this week).

This was my contribution to the potluck…it seemed to go well for everyone (except my own traitorous offspring who decided he didn’t like the look of it and proceeded to stuff his face with the stuffed shells and the two different baked macaroni and cheese, and the Hardscrabble chicken — anything but my dish, the one I had made thinking he’d love it; thanks for the support, little dude) and I had enough to bring in for my esteemed colleagues. At least one has decided that she doesn’t have to cook this week thanks to this abundant, rich, very easy and super-tasty, creamy dish.

You’ll be able to use this recipe next time you have to feed a bunch of people with stuff you already have on hand!

Pasta with Spinach, Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Black Olives

1.5 lbs penne or other short pasta

6 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, sliced thin

½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more if you want it spicy)

28 oz canned of diced tomatoes (or two Cups fresh)

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

10 oz – 16 oz frozen spinach

20-30 pitted black olives, sliced

½ Cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano or pecorino

6 oz fresh goat cheese (chévre)

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water, drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook at medium low until softened and golden, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste (if using fresh tomatoes, cook until they begin to soften) and then add spinach, cooking at medium low until the spinach is heated through and incorporated, about 5 minutes. Add olives.

Add the pasta and the grated cheese (and tablespoons of the reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick) and stir until the pasta is fully coated. Add the goat cheese, mix well (but gently) and serve, with additional grated cheese if desired.


A Sephardic-Inspired Variation on Pasta with Spinach

17 Oct

Leandro can’t get enough, but I’ve had enough. My pasta with spinach and garlic — itself a variation on aglio, olio e peperoncino — is really good, a guaranteed winner with the little one, and makes easy leftovers for the lunch boxes, but I am done with eating it once a week.

So, I figured I’d mix it up a bit. I had more-or-less the right ingredients for a Sephardic-Mizrahi-inspired spinach dish – the kind of flavors that Mediterranean Jews have combined beautifully for centuries — and which really suit the change to fall. It is also done in a flash.

The spinach from Restoration Farm is in season and lovely, while raisins and nuts provide a density and intensity that agrees with the more serious autumnal weather and light.

As this dish is inspired rather than traditional (I guess I am Reformed, even though I’m not even Jewish, but we can argue about that later), I ended up using goat cheese because it’s what I had…feta would work just as well and might just be a bit more in keeping with the motif. Also, the Sephardim would use pine nuts, but at upwards of $20 a pound, I will stick to my walnuts (no joke even at less than $10 a lb.) and toast them for more elegance and flavor.

I wish I could say that Leandro loved it, but actually he decided — three bites in — that he kind of hated it (Methinks he was surprised — in not a good way — by the raisins) and ended up eating some extra pasta that I had (wisely, because after four years I know how these things can go) reserved. He had it with goat cheese (new for him) and still thinks I am the best cook ever (except for his Padushi), so no harm done. And I loved it. If I had known Leandro was going to bail, I would’ve skipped the pasta in favor of couscous or rice. Live and learn.

Spinach, raisin and walnut pasta

8 oz pasta of your choice (short and tubular whole-grain penne-type preferred)

1-2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

½ Cup chopped onion

8-16 oz fresh spinach leaves, cleaned thoroughly and roughly chopped

1/2 Cup raisins (golden or brown), plumped for a few minutes in warm water and drained

½ Cup walnuts, lightly toasted in a hot dry skillet, if you’ve got the time or inclination

Pinch nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

½ Cup feta cheese, crumbled or several Tbs chevre (creamy goat cheese)

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve ¼ cup cooking liquid. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium-hot skillet and add onions. Stir to coat, lower heat and sauté until tender (about five minutes) toss in spinach. Stir to coat and cook until just wilting. Add raisins, walnuts, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. If it seems too dry, add reserved cooking liquid by the tablespoon until you like the look of it. Pour over pasta and mix and top with desired cheese.

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