By Barbara Beltrami

Recently faced with a 2½-pound bag of spinach, I was reminded of a visit with my friend at her wine estate in Tuscany where after cooking with her, I came away with a whole new attitude about and repertoire for spinach. In the ways she prepared it, it was a far cry from the plain old green stuff boiled or microwaved or taken out of a can. In fact, the things she did with it were such treats that second helpings were de rigueur. Consider these adaptations of her recipes, which move spinach to a sublime and savory taste echelon.

Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.


2½ ounces unsalted butter

2 pounds fresh spinach, washed, drained and squeezed dry

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 ounces golden raisins, soaked in warm water 10 minutes and drained

2 ounces pine nuts, lightly toasted


In large skillet, melt butter, add spinach and salt and pepper and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes. Stir in raisins and pine nuts and cook over medium low heat a few more minutes. Serve with meat, poultry or fish.

Pasta with Spinach, Gorgonzola and Mascarpone Cheese

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.


1 pound pasta such as penne, rigatoni or ziti

1 pound fresh or frozen spinach, cooked, drained, squeezed dry and chopped, liquid reserved

½ pound Gorgonzola cheese, diced

2 ounces mascarpone cheese

1 ounce grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese

Freshly ground black pepper


Cook pasta according to package directions. Boil one cup of reserved spinach liquid (if not enough, add pasta cooking liquid). Meanwhile put the cheeses and pepper into a heat-proof pasta bowl; mash them together with a fork until they are well blended. While it is still hot, put cooked pasta in bowl with cheeses; add spinach and toss vigorously to combine; if sauce is too thick add a little of the spinach liquid and toss again. Serve immediately with a chilled dry white wine. 

Little Spinach and Gruyere Soufflés

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.


1 ounce unsalted butter plus extra for greasing individual soufflé dishes

1 ounce flour

1 cup boiling milk

2 pounds fresh spinach, washed, cooked, squeezed dry and finely chopped

Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

4 large eggs, separated

7 ounces Gruyere cheese, diced

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Dried breadcrumbs


Preheat oven to 375 F. In small saucepan melt butter. Stir in flour, then slowly add hot milk; stirring constantly, cook mixture for 5 minutes; add spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg; stir and let cool. With wire whisk, stir in egg yolks, Gruyere and Parmesan. Beat egg whites until stiff; gently fold into mixture. Grease individual soufflé molds and dust with breadcrumbs. Place equal amounts of mixture into each soufflé dish; bake 20 minutes; serve immediately with thin breadsticks

Ricotta and Spinach Gnocchi

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings.


2 ounces unsalted butter

2 pounds cooked fresh spinach, drained, squeezed dry and finely chopped

1 pound ricotta

5 ounces sifted flour

5 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

3 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Grated nutmeg to taste

1 ounce melted unsalted butter

4 sage leaves, minced

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


In large skillet, melt the two ounces of butter; add prepared spinach and, stirring frequently, cook 5 minutes. Put spinach in a large bowl; add ricotta, flour, 5 ounces Parmesan, breadcrumbs, egg yolks, egg, salt and pepper and nutmeg; mix to thoroughly combine; refrigerate for one hour. Remove mixture from fridge and roll into little balls (about 1- to 1½-inch in diameter). Carefully drop balls into pot of gently boiling salted water and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Preheat broiler. With skimmer remove balls, drain well and place in a greased ovenproof dish. Dot with melted butter and sage, sprinkle with remaining two tablespoons of grated Parmesan and place under hot broiler a few minutes to lightly brown. Serve hot with a mixed salad.