Pasta + Baby Spinach + Ricotta + Half & Half + Butter = Quick-to-Prepare Fun

In the ten years I served on the James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook Award Committee, I flew to NYC four times a year to attend the meetings (we had no idea that ZOOM would become a thing – after all it was the 90’s and early 2000’s).

I developed lots of favorite NYC restaurants in those years, but with each visit I’d faithfully dine at one of Lidia Bastianich’s eateries – Del Posto, or Lidia’s; Felidia or Eataly.

The food made me feel like I was joyfully eating in Italy.

On of my favorites of her many many cookbooks, “Lidia’s Celebrate Like An Italian.”

Making her pasta dish that showcases equal amounts of pasta and fresh baby spinach, brought back fond memories. She coarsely chops the spinach. Me? I just throw in those little leaves.

It’s a great weeknight meal accompanied with a crisp green salad and some crusty bread. Mangia!

Yield: 6 servings
1 pound dried fusilli or orecchiette
1 pound clean baby spinach
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped green onions, white and light green portions
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
1 cup half-and-half or light cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water
Garnish: 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Stir pasta into the boiling water. Cover the pot and reheat to boiling, stirring once or twice. When the water returns to a boil, uncover the pot. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until al dente— tender but firm— about 12 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water. Drain pasta.

2. Meanwhile, in large deep skillet (I use the biggest and deepest one I have) heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in spinach (I add half of the spinach, cook it down as directed and then add the rest of the spinach and cook that down). Cover the skillet and steam the spinach until wilted but still bright green, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

3. In a small bowl stir the ricotta and half and half until smooth. Stir the ricotta mixture and the butter into the skillet. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add cooked pasta; toss to combine. Heat over low heat, adding enough of the reserved cooking water to make a sauce that lightly coats the pasta. Remove from heat and stir in grated cheese. Transfer the pasta to a warm serving platter or individual bowls and serve immediately.

Source: adapted from