Here’s one that’s right in line with that simple, nourishing, peasant cooking that I love so much! Try this one out if you want to make a quick and delicious veggie side or soup/stew type of dish. That’s the thing with preparing cooked veggies the Italian way. You never really know what to call it. Is it soup? Is it stew? No…It’s just “spinach and potatoes!”
When I serve this as a side I drain off some of the juices and create a dryer version. When I serve it as a meal it goes in a nice big bowl with all of its juices accompanied with some hot red pepper flakes and grated Italian cheese along with some Italian bread.
The simplicity of this dish is beautiful, but there are some techniques you need to adhere to if you want it to come delish!
For this dish, we are going to use a nice size shallow frying pan with a lot of surface area to saute the sliced red potatoes and smashed garlic cloves. Line the bottom of the pan with some extra virgin olive oil. It’s OK to use the EVOO because we are not frying, we are sauteing, sort of. You only need about an ⅛ of an inch of oil or less.
Put your sliced potatoes and smashed garlic cloves into the pan nice and flat in the oil and turn up the heat to med-high just to get things going. Once the potatoes start to cook and brown on the bottoms they will begin to stick. You actually want this to happen. Lower the flame a little and with a flat-edged metal spatula scrape the potatoes off the bottom of the pan and flip. They will start sticking again, just keep scraping them off the pan and gently flip them.
Regarding your garlic cloves. . . Because you will be cooking with gentle heat they should not burn but instead become nice and chewy almost “candy-like.” Just keep moving them around and managing them. If they are getting too dark remove them temporarily but you shouldn’t have to.
When the potatoes stick to the bottom of the pan they create a nice caramelized substance that you want to keep in the dish. You will see it collecting on the spatula. Don’t throw it out. Just wipe it off back into the potatoes. This will not happen if you use too much oil or if the oil is too deep in the pan. You really just want to use just a little bit of oil. The process is a little bit of work and awkward but it’s worth it.
So… just keep scraping and tossing your potatoes around until they start to soften but you want them to remain firm and chewy. Once your potatoes get to this point salt and pepper them real nice, cover the pan so they stay warm, and set them aside. They will continue to cook with the flame off. They should feel just a little bit too firm but once they sit and are added to the hot spinach in the end they will be perfect.
In a large pot you would boil pasta in, put in all the baby spinach after it’s been washed, and rinsed thoroughly with cold water. The spinach should fill the pot up to the top. Keep in mind the spinach will shrink down by over 50%. Salt and pepper to taste and pour in 1 & 1/2 cups of water. Put the flame on medium. Cover the pot. Once the water starts to boil on the bottom of the pot it will start to steam the spinach. This step is probably the most important one to pay attention to!! Once you start getting steam, you want to quickly bring up the spinach on the bottom and set it on top of the lesser cooked spinach. We are going to turn off the flame and take off the cover as soon as the spinach turns bright green and starts wilt a little. This process is quick. It should look like it’s not done yet, (but it is).
Now. . . add all warm the contents of the frying pan with the garlic, potatoes, and their delicious caramelized bits to the top of the spinach that was gently steamed in the pot. With a pair of tongs or wooden spoon, gently fold the potatoes into the spinach. There should be no flame on at this point. You should have stopped cooking your spinach as soon as it turned bright green and wilted just a little.
With a slotted spoon, scoop out the spinach and potatoes onto your favorite platter. Add as much juice as desired. Top with some Parmigiano-Reggiano, hot red pepper flakes, a drizzle of EVOO and serve with crusty Italian bread.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Thanks for visiting!
3 bags or about 20oz of baby spinach left whole
5 medium-sized washed and scrubbed red potatoes sliced ¼ inch thick
5 smashed garlic cloves
Approx ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil (may need a little more depending on the pan)
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
Hot red pepper flakes to taste
Serve with . . .
Grated Italian cheese and Italian bread