Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Spaghetti with Fresh Spinach and Gorgonzola
I love pasta. Love it, love it, love it! I had pasta at least once a week while growing up. Probably even twice a week. Each Sunday my mom would make a big pot of gravy with homemade meatballs and sausage. And she'd also make 6 loaves of homemade bread. You can imagine the wonderful smells I got to grow up with. . .
Consequently, I am very picky about pasta. I do not make the same gravy that my mother makes. I keep that in my heart as coming from her and I like to eat it at her house in her kitchen and bring back all my happy memories of childhood. I play with the more gourmet aspect of pasta. My standards are Pasta Puttanesca, Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce and Spaghetti con Pomodoro e Tonno (Pasta with Tuna). I make those three very well and usually make one of these when I need my pasta fix. Besides those, I lean towards using Asian and Thai seasonings when working with noodles.
I feel that most Italian cookbooks are quite pretentious about their pasta recipes. The importance of fresh pasta is always discussed. And I'd love to make fresh pasta, but that will be a special occasion for when I have alot of time. My normal life calls for dried pasta. And I finally found a book that acknowledges the ease of use and even celebrates dried pasta. On Top of Spaghetti is written by Johanne Killeen and George German, owners of the famous Al Forno restaurant in Rhode Island. These are two chefs who work in the kitchen making high quality gourmet food all day. But at night, they come home, often late and tired, and throw together quick pasta dishes for themselves. They call it "Midnight Spaghetti". The two of them started challenging each other to come up with the most unique pasta dishes created from items they already had around the house. Night after night as each took their turn, they would try to think up something new. And with this book they introduce us to many of those great creations.
The first 200 pages are dedicated to dried pasta ideas. That is a lot of different pasta recipes for dried pasta! And you won't find any "classic" Italian recipes in this book. Pasta is featured with so many different things that you may not normally think of adding to it. The chapters are separated into making pasta with vegetables, legumes, and herbs; tomato sauces; seafood, poultry, meat, and rabbit; and eggs and cheeses. Another 50 pages are dedicated to fresh pasta recipes including ravioli and lasagne. So there is something for every kind of pasta lover (and preparer) in this book.
The name is cutesy, but don't let that turn you away from the quality in this book. I am in love with this book and it has sparked my creativity for all things spaghetti (including macaroni, linguine, penne, and pasta of every kind). I haven't gotten very far . . . I only got to the 6th recipe before I had to stop reading and start cooking. I can't wait to turn the page and see what I'm going to try next!
I did change it up a tiny bit. I halved the recipe since there was no way I wanted to make an entire pound of pasta just for myself. And after I had a few bits I decided to try crushing up some Peperoni Cruschi imported from Italy to sprinkle on top.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
In a small bowl, mush together the Gorgonzola and butter until you have a smooth paste. Set aside but do not refrigerate.
Wash the spinach in plenty of cold water. Drain in a colander, leaving the water clinging to the leaves.
Heat the olive oil in a large straight-sided skillet over moderately high heat. Add the spinach and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Toss the spinach with tongs until it has wilted. Taste it to add more salt if necessary. Turn off the heat, but keep the spinach warm on the side of the stove.
Generously salt the pasta water and drop in the spaghetti. Cook at a rolling boil, stirring until al dents. Drain the pasta, reserving about up of the cooking water. Transfer the spaghetti to the skillet and toss with the spinach. Add the Gorgonzola-butter mixture and toss to coat each strand of spaghetti. If the pasta seems dry, add a bit of cooking water and toss again. Add as much of the cooking water as you need to make a creamy consistency. If you have fresh basil, tear the leaves and toss into the spaghetti. Serve right away.