June 10, 2007

Spinach and Ricotta Pasta

We've joined a CSA this year. It's Happy Heart Farm and it's just down the street from where my sister lives. She had joined last year and liked it, and the more we read of the Omnivore's Dilemma the more we felt we needed to go for it. We already eat mostly organic, whole-grain, less-processed foods. But ever since reading Gary Nabhan's book, Coming Home to Eat, I've felt like we should be focusing more on local foodstuffs. Though we'd done that a bit, Omnivore's Dilemma (review to come, I promise!) provided the kick in the butt that we needed.

When we lived in San Francisco we subscribed to "The Box" (now apparently called Organic Express). On a weekly basis we'd receive a box of veggies and fruits that were mostly local, all organic, and several items of which we'd never tried before (like chard). It was a wonderful chance to try out (and learn to cook) veggies that I'd never tried before. (Chard not only became one of my favorites, but Naomi has nicknamed it "Yummies in Tummies.")

I think that joining this CSA will be similarly gastronomically enlightening. I'm looking forward to trying new veggies, testing new recipes, and eating with the seasons.

After only two weeks of receiving shares from the farm, I found that I was already starting to drown in spinach. I had been adding it to the salads I was making with the radishes, beet leaves, and 2 kinds of lettuce I'd received from the farm, but I had only made a small dent in the spinach. So I decided not only to cook it all up tonight, but I also wanted to get rid of the ricotta that had been sitting in the fridge for too long (and which had a "sell by" date of today).

The following is what I came up with:

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2 garlic chives
(This is a great example of something new I'm trying thanks to the CSA.)
fresh spinach (It was probably the equivalent of two boxes of frozen spinach. If I had tried to measure it before cooking, it probably would have been about 10 cups, but it cooked down to about 2 cups... maybe 3.)
15 oz. ricotta cheese
2 eggs (I buy these from a guy at church who has over 50 birds: chickens, ducks, geese, among other things. We're hoping to visit them sometimes this summer.)
1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste
herbs (I used dried dill because I Love dill. But I also used some fresh oregano from the CSA.)
12 oz. pasta (I used fusilli, the kind that look like corkscrews, but shells would also work well.)
cheese (I used provolone but that's only because it's all I had. This dish would work well with mozzarella and a tad bit of parmesan.)
tomato sauce (I totally cheated and used Wild Oats parmesan pasta sauce

Put water on to boil. When boiling, add the pasta and cook until it's el dente.

Melt some butter in a large pan. (It should be big enough to hold the spinach.) Add chopped garlic chives. (Garlic chives look sorta like regular chives on steroids. They taste like green onions only magnified a few times and given a hint of a garlic punch.) Sautee garlic chives for about 2 minutes, then add cleaned spinach. (Remember, fresh spinach tends to be gritty. Wash it several times to be on the safe side.) Cook spinach until it is reduced to about half to a third of it's original size. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl mix eggs, ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, and herbs. Add spinach and chives. Then add pasta and pour the entire mixture into a casserole dish.

Cook for about 10 - 15 minutes uncovered at 350 degrees. Add cheese to the top and cook until cheese is melted. While this is cooking, make pasta sauce (or heat up premade sauce, as I did).

Serve with a ladle (or two) of pasta sauce. Sprinkle some parmesan on top.

(Rob said several times, "I'm surprised at how good this is!")


  1. That looks delicious! How was it?

  2. It was really good. I wish I had had more cheese on hand. But it was quite tasty as it was.

  3. Those are actually "garlic scapes". Garlic chives look a lot like regular chives, maybe a little less round.

  4. this from a man who only replies on multiply using his wife's account. :-P

    the email from the CSA called them garlic chives so that's what i called them as well. they may have had them tagged as scapes once we got there to pick them up.

  5. I once made a slight variant on this dish.

    Instead of adding loose pasta to the ricotta/spinach mix you make largish cannelloni out of sheets of fresh pasta (no I didn't make the pasta itself) and then stuff the mixture inside those, in fact it's probably easiest to roll them up with the mixture inside.

    You then lay them down side by side in a lasagna dish or similar and cover completely with the tomato sauce and then some grated cheese before baking.

    It probably tastes very similar except that the two sauce textures are kept separate, and I think the appearance of the cannelloni baked in the tomato sauce is fantastic straight out of the oven.

    I also found that some freshly grated nutmeg in the ricotta and spinach mix is perfect.

  6. this sounds tasty, but I have a sensative stomach. I'm curious how this would taste w/o the spinach?

  7. it would still taste yummy without spinach. and you could always throw in peas or corn or something so there's a veggie in there. (not that corn's a veggie.)

    i saw several cannelloni recipes that were a lot like this, but i didn't have any cannelloni. so i made more of a "macaroni and cheese" type version.

  8. Hmm, very interesting. Yeah, I have a hard time w/ most veggies, about the only things that are safe are lettuce and peas, and neither one belong in pasta, lol.

  9. Good to know. I'll definitely have to try making this some time.

  10. hey, we got *real* garlic chives yesterday from the CSA. at some point i'll take a pic so you all can see the difference (and to make wesley happy). they really don't look much like chives.

  11. I'm sure wesley (or darryl) will correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the chives are the leaves of the garlic and the scape is the flower and it's stem.

    Both are good in salads, frittatas, and anywhere else you might toss a bit of onion or chives.

  12. What is a CSA? Cooperative something association? I wonder if there is anything like this in Ann Arbor.

  13. if you click on the CSA link in the original article, you'll get an explanation of what it is and how it works.

    it looks like there might be one where you pick up our shares at the farmers market.

    ah, this looks much more promising. i knew there'd probably be something related to the university.

    if neither of these work, i'd recommend either looking for something posted at zingermans or ask around at the farmers market.

  14. There are a few. We were a member of Tantra when it was started. I think it's better now that it was then :)

  15. Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum or A. ramosum, also chinese chives) are their very own plant, not closely related to garlic (Allium sativum). As I recall, garlic chives are also not that closely related to chives (Allium schoenoprasum). The garlic scape is the immature flower stalk of the garlic, tho, yes. It's removed to promote a larger bulb. Garlic leaves are also eaten, tho not typically in the US.

  16. we just got a whole herd of garlic from the CSA last week. 10 heads, to be exact, complete with a full head of leaf "hair" each. the leaves were tough even after i simmered them in butter for an hour. (i didn't want to waste them and they smelled so flavorful that i thought i'd make garlic butter out of them and toss them. which i did.)

  17. I eat my garlic leaves from my garden :) I also eat the shallot leaves and the chive leaves when I pass by :) I prefer the garlic leaves.

  18. maybe when they're younger they're more tender. i noticed that with the scapes. the larger they got, the tougher. i stopped putting them into things. i'm not sure what to do with them now. maybe they'd work in soups. but who wants to make soup when it's 90 degrees out?

  19. you just chew on em' like snacks is all!

  20. as opposed to chewing on them like long, fibrous, tough strips of greenery i suppose? ;-)


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