Save steps with this quick dish of a trio of Italian cheeses and spinach with shells. You might want to double the recipe, since everyone will be coming back for more!
- 1 bag organic, frozen spinach (16 ounces), defrosted
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- Nutmeg, to taste
- 1 pound medium shell pasta (about 1-inch shells dry)
- 1 1/2 cups fresh sheep’s milk or cow’s milk ricotta cheese
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, diced or shredded
- 1 cup shredded Pecorino (sheep’s milk) or Parmigiano Reggiano (cow’s milk) cheese
- Wring the spinach dry in a clean dishtowel. Separate with your fingers to loosen.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
- Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and pre-heat the broiler.
- Heat the olive oil, a turn of the pan, in a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Melt the butter into the oil; when it foams, add the onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and stir for 3-5 minutes to soften. Stir in the flour for 1 minute or so. Whisk in the milk and let thicken; season with nutmeg, to taste, and reduce the heat to low to keep warm.
- Salt the boiling water and cook the shells to al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water and add it to the milk sauce to thin it a bit. Add the spinach to the pasta pot to heat; stir, then drain the pasta and spinach and toss with the sauce, adjusting the salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange in a casserole dish and dot with the ricotta cheese mixed with the lemon zest and thyme. Top with the mozzarella and grated cheese and broil until brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.