Monday, June 30, 2014

Orecchiette with squash sauce and spinach balls - quick, nutritious and delicious

Orecchiette with squash sauce and spinach balls / Orecchiette com molho de abóbora e bolinhas de espinafre

Despite my desire to try new things in the kitchen, I feel very lucky for not having serious food allergies and also for not having to give up gluten or dairy – I was a vegetarian for many years and that wasn’t hard, but I don’t think I would last one week without bread or cheese.

Pasta is another staple I’m not willing to eliminate from my diet, not only because it is delicious but also because it is a very versatile ingredient: it can be made in so many different ways, the sky is the limit. When I’m in a hurry to make dinner or the refrigerator is empty pasta always saves the night. That is why I was so eager to buy Antonio Carluccio’s book on the subject and he didn’t disappoint: it is oh, so beautiful, and the recipes look mouthwatering – I want to cook everything from that book.

Still strong with the plan of adding more vegetables to our meals and reducing the amount of meat I thought that a pasta dish with a vegetable sauce would make a light, nutritious lunch, and since my husband had said something about how great the dish on the cover of the book looked it was easy to choose a recipe. Carluccio’s recipe calls for zucchini, but I decided to use the beautiful squash I had in my fridge: not only the food was delish and super fresh, it was really quick to put together – that way I did not miss any of the action on the Holland vs Mexico match (I screamed so hard when Sneijder scored that my throat was sore for the rest of the day). :)

Orecchiette with squash sauce and spinach balls
slightly adapted from the beautiful and delicious Pasta: The Essential New Collection from the Master of Italian Cookery

Spinach balls:
150g spinach leaves
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
20g fresh breadcrumbs
15g parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
salt and freshly ground black pepper
canola oil, for shallow frying

Pasta and sauce:
150g orecchiette or penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
½ fresh red chilli, not too hot, finely chopped
300g coarsely grated squash*
salt and freshly ground blackpepper, to taste
finely ground parmesan, to serve

Preheat the oven to 120°C/250°F.
Prepare the spinach balls first by cooking the spinach leaves in salted water for a few minutes. Scoop out and leave to cool. When cool, squeeze out most of the moisture and chop the leaves with a knife, but not too small. Then mix in a bowl with the garlic, nutmeg, breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Add the egg gradually, mixing until the mixture comes together (you might not need the whole egg). Season with salt and pepper. Roll mixture into balls (you’ll get about 10) and shallow-fry in a tiny bit of canola oil until they brown on all sides. Keep them warm in the oven while you make the rest of the recipe.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: heat the oil in a large saucepan, and add the garlic, chilli and squash to the pan. Cook quickly in the oil, about 3-4 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drain the pasta and mix it with the sauce over high heat, to cover and warm everything up, then divide between warmed plates. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with parmesan and place four or five spinach balls on top. Serve at once.

* I used a type of squash called “abóbora paulista”, which by photo I found similar to cushaw squash (but a lot smaller in size); feel free to replace it with other types of squash or use zucchini instead (as called for in the original recipe)

Serves 2

2 comments:

Elzbieta Hester said...

Next time, I'm gonna put my spinach balls in the oven too...
Yours turned out beautiful, I like that you can actually see the leaves...Great pasta dish!

ela h.
Gray Apron

Laura (Tutti Dolci) said...

Orecchiette is my favorite, what a great pasta!

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