Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pappardelle with Spinach, Mascarpone and Lemon


Like most people, I prefer plain, soothing food when I have a troubled stomach (rice pudding and congee have saved the day many-a-time). This was my predicament a few days ago and I couldn’t bear the thought of eating anything with the suggestion of meat or spice. But all is well that ends well because that’s exactly what led me to this dish.
I adore Jamie Oliver. And when it comes to his recipes, I find them down-to-earth and repeatedly delicious. This particular dish was no exception. Spinach is cooked down into a tender wilt and then simmered with a dash of cream, mascarpone and Parmesan before getting folded into hot noodles. I can see why he claims that kids love this meal, even if they don’t normally eat spinach. It’s probably the same reason why it tastes good on an unsettled stomach: because it’s comforting, creamy and just plain good.

Pappardelle with Spinach, Mascarpone and Lemon
You can easily replace the lemon zest with freshly grated nutmeg for a warmer, nuttier flavor. Adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe.

10-16 oz pappardelle, tagliatelle or spaghetti
Olive oil
2 teaspoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 bunches fresh spinach, washed well and spun dry
½ cup heavy cream
5 ounces mascarpone cheese
Zest of one large lemon
Salt and pepper
2 handfuls freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. If using dry pasta, add it to water and cook according to package instructions. If using fresh, add it after beginning the sauce since it will only take a few quick minutes to cook. 

In a large skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil and the butter over medium heat until butter melts; add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the spinach, one handful at a time, and cook until wilted and some of the water has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the cream, mascarpone, lemon zest and a little ladle of the pasta water. Bring to a simmer and season with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta, reserving some of the liquid, and stir into the spinach sauce. Add the Parmesan and toss well. Loosen up the sauce with a bit more pasta water (the sauce congeals and thickens quickly when plated so a little loosening at this point works wonders). Check for seasonings, and then serve immediately topped with grated Parmesan.

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