Orecchiette with Spinach and Ricotta

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Orecchiette with Spinach and Ricotta

I did it! This is one of my greatest culinary feats of all time. I have loved a dish at Casale’s restaurant in Itasca, IL (my hometown) for many, many years. It is one of the many culinary delights that I demand when I return to the motherland. However, I have never been able to recreate the flavor until tonight. The spinach in this week’s Washington’s Green Grocer box inspired this attempt to recreate the dish, and I am forever grateful.

Orecchiette with Spinach and Ricotta
1/2 lb orecchiette pasta
1 bunch spinach
1 Tb olive oil
2 Tb butter
2 Tb flour
5 cloves garlic, minced and  divided
2 cups milk
dash of nutmeg
salt
black pepper
garlic powder
3/4 cup ricotta, divided
1/2 cup marinara or favorite red sauce

  1. Saute spinach with olive oil just until wilted. Season with salt, black pepper and garlic powder to taste. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, set a large pot of water to boil. Once water boils, cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter. Add 3 cloves minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add in the flour and cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Gradually whisk in the milk to ensure that there are no lumps from the roux. Once all of the milk has been added, add in the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. The sauce should be slightly thin, but not pure milk thin. Add in remaining 2 cloves of garlic.
  5. Stir in 2 Tb of ricotta to thicken the sauce slightly.
  6. Once pasta is finished, drain thoroughly and pour into a bowl while still hot. Pour white sauce over pasta and mix in spinach. Drop in the ricotta by spoonfuls into the pasta. Mix, but not enough to melt into the sauce.
  7. Add the red sauce on top. It adds color and a little acidity to the dish. Whenever I make red sauce, I save and freeze some. This dish is a great use of said frozen sauce.
  8. Serve with crusty bread and some merlot.
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