Spinach Pasta


New year, new recipe! How about we follow a New Years resolution trend and throw some healthy eats into the mix?

I've noted before (just a few times) that I am a pasta fiend. Spaghetti for dinner makes this gal a happy camper. I learned a few months back just how easy Homemade Pasta is, and I was itching to try one of my favorite varieties of noodles: veggie pasta.

Rather than just having flour, I've seen tomato, spinach, and carrot pasta. They're multi-colored and despite being loaded with veggies, they taste like a regular old noodle.

Ever so popular in macaroni salad, I am happy to interchange vegetable pasta into any dish for an even swap. I decided I would try spinach for my first attempt, since I've grown to love Popeye's favorite leafy green.

I used a bag of spinach, as when I'm lucky I can grab one BOGO at the grocery. I pulled off the thick stems, as these don't cook down as well and I needed the spinach to cook down. I am always amazed at how much the spinach cooks down, much like in Spanakopita. You start out with this big pile of spinach leaves and end up with a pile 1/15th that size. For this recipe, you could also just grab a frozen block of spinach and thaw it out, as that is already wilted. But I find that using the fresh kind is quite easy, and just go about it that way. I just poured the spinach in a pan, added a little bit of water, and stirred while it cooked on medium-low heat. Within 5 minutes, the spinach was done.



I let the leaves cool down for a few minutes as the next step required some hands on action. You can use a cheesecloth or a clean towel (one of the thin linen ones work best) and just pile the spinach in it, wrap it tightly, and squeeze out all the water. I mean really squeeze the spinach until you have no water coming out.



What I wound up with was little mound of super condensed spinach.



The next steps are just the same as the homemade pasta I made before. You mix the nearly dried spinach in with the eggs, some of the flour (start out with 2 1/2 cups), and 1 teaspoon salt. Use a large spoon or your hands to combine the ingredients until they are well combined and have a crumbly consistency.



Then, shape the dough into a ball and begin to knead it. You can do this with your hands on a floured surface, or use a stand mixer like I did. It certainly took the hard work out of it, and as I was planning to use the stand mixer attachments to roll out the dough, it just made sense. I kneaded the dough for a few minutes, watching until the dough was a well formed ball and was smooth but not sticky. This is the step where the additional flour may come in. If it is too sticky, add a little flour and continue kneading. If too dry, add a small amount of water. After that, cover the dough and let it rest for approximately half an hour.

I've worked with dough that has rested at least 20 minutes and, when I ran a little short once, some that did not rest at all. The one that did not rest was crumbly and more difficult to roll out. The flour needs some time to soak up the moisture so it can hold together.



Now the spinach was cooked, the dough is mixed and had some time to relax. It's time to make noodles. Last time I made pasta, I used a hand crank roller. It worked fantastic, and I've used it since. But I wanted to try the Kitchenaid pasta rolling attachment, saving me some effort and the need for an extra hand.

I separated the dough into 4 parts nearly equal in size, then flattened each by hand. I set the pasta roller on one of the wider settings and floured the rollers. With the flip of a switch, the roller started turning and I put the dough through to thin it out. That was easy.



After rolling out the 4 parts (which really only took a few seconds thanks to the help of a motor to get the dough through), I changed the settings down a few sizes and thinned the pasta out some more. At this point the dough would have been good for lasagna, but I was making spaghetti.



Here's where attachment #2 comes in. I put the spaghetti roller on and again added some flour. Trust me on the flour. You don't want that dough getting stuck in there.



After turning the motor on once more (I used the lowest setting at first, then played around with bumping it up to speed up the rolling a tad), I put the thin sheets of dough through and watched as magically, spaghetti came out the other side!



I did the same for all the rolls and there we have it: homemade spinach pasta.



For my dinner, I boiled the pasta for right about 5 minutes and tossed it with some marinara. Another option would be to hang the pasta on a pasta drying rack and store it in a sealed container. This isn't something I have experimented with yet, as quite frankly I am fully prepared to feed off of and share the entire amount of pasta over several days.

Homemade pasta is so basic, so cheap, and so easy, I would recommend it to anyone willing to try a new recipe. When lacking a pasta roller, I have even used a rolling pin on the dough to get it as thin as I could, then slice it up from there. No fancy equipment required, just a little bit of time in the kitchen.

I guess I have left out the most important part. How did it taste?! Well, friends, it was delightful. The spinach flavor is actually quite subtle, and it feels good to know that you are squeezing a few extra vitamins into your diet. Of course, the success of this dinner had me thinking...what about some other, non-traditional vegetables? Coming soon.

Spinach Pasta Recipe

Ingredients:

1 bag fresh spinach (9 ounces)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2-3 tablespoons water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

Remove the stems from the spinach leaves. Saute for about 5 minutes in a small amount of water, until leaves have wilted. Allow the leaves to cool, then use a cheesecloth to strain out the water, squeezing the spinach to drain all water. Add to a large mixing bowl and mix in the eggs, 2 1/2 cups of flour, and 1 teaspoon salt. Use hands or a large spoon to mix the ingredients until you have a consistent, coarse and crumbly mixture. Knead the mixture with your hands or a mixer until a ball is formed that is soft but not sticky. Separate the dough into 4 equal parts, then flatten with hands. At this point, you can either roll the dough thin with a rolling pin or use a pasta roller to thin out the dough. If using a roller, roll into a sheet on the widest setting first. Then, lower the size and roll again to continue thinning. Continue if desired for thinner pasta, or roll through the spaghetti cutter. If rolling out by hand, roll dough until desired thickness is reached, then slice into small strips. Boil for 5-7 minutes.

adapted from the good housekeeping cookbook

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