This dish is rather cheeky.
It combines the voluptuousness of soft ricotta with the pert green of spinach.
Eggs, whipped to a luscious froth, add a custardy body. And grated parmesan a delicious saltiness.
I rather fancy it, especially late at night when everyone else is asleep, and I saunter silently downstairs in my silk robe to eat it brazenly with fingertips straight out of the fridge.
Forgive me my Nigella impersonation. But I can’t help myself, as this dish surely will have you feeling a little like that British culinary bombshell. “Spinach Baked with Ricotta & Nutmeg” is from Nigella Lawson’s newest cookbook, “Nigellissima” (Clarkson Potter).
What does a Brit know about Italian food? Turns out plenty. When she was 17, she applied to study Italian at Oxford University, and spent a year living in Italy. In fact, she worked as a chambermaid in a family-run pensione in Florence, where she spent countless hours in the kitchen with the family’s paternal grandmother.
Lawson, the star of the show “The Taste,” doesn’t pretend to have created a cookbook filled with traditional Italian recipes. Instead, it showcases her way of infusing the spirit and passion of Italian food in dishes such as “Green Pasta with Blue Cheese,” “Lamb Steaks with Anchovies & Thyme,” and “Italian Breakfast Banana Bread.”
What I liked about this easy recipe is that it’s like creamed spinach, but a whole lot less rich. The steakhouse staple often can be so artery-clogging with heavy cream and butter that you can barely taste the minerality of the spinach. In this version, though, the bright herbaceousness of the spinach remains. It’s still a satisfyingly creamy dish, but a little more eggy and fluffy.
As Lawson describes it, the dish is very much akin to the spinach mixture you’d find stuffed into raviolis. As she writes in her own inimitable way: “For me this is the perfect accompaniment to a grilled steak or roast chicken, but then I could spoon this soft, eggy spinach down, swooningly, just as is.”
Ahh, there’s only one Nigella.
Spinach Baked with Ricotta & Nutmeg
(Serves 2 as a side dish)
Butter for greasing
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled
10 cups (packed) (approximately 12 ounces) baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
2 tablespoons white wine or vermouth
3 tablespoons grated parmesan
2 tablespoons ricotta
Freshly ground pepper and salt, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees., and butter a small ovenproof dish. I use a vaguely oval one with a capacity of about 3 cups.
In a wok or wide heavy pan, warm the olive oil with the garlic clove and cook until the garlic is brown.
Over a low heat, stir in the spinach, bearing in mind that, though, it will look at first as if you can’t fit it all in, cooked spinach reduces to a fraction of its raw volume.
Turn up the heat, throw in the wine or vermouth, and toss gently until spinach has wilted, which will take around 30 seconds.
Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan and ricotta and season to taste, adding a good grating of nutmeg.
Beat in the eggs, then transfer the eggy spinach to your buttered oven dish — I leave the garlic clove in just out of laziness, but you could remove it at this point — and bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until just set. Let it stand for at least 5 but no longer than 15 minutes, before serving.
From “Nigellisima” by Nigella Lawson
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