This is one of my favourite dishes in a well know italian chef’s chain or restaurants. As spinach and courgettes are bang in season this dish came to mind and I wanted to try and make it myself. Gosh it was delicious and I found rolling the spinach balls really theraputic. To keep it in line with our tastes I used wholewheat pasta and bread which added even more earthy flavours. If you fancy trying a vegetarian dish but also want something really tasty this dish is perfect.
Ingredient’s (serves 2)
For the spinach balls
- 260g spinach leaves, washed thoroughly, (stalks removed if tough)
- 1 free-range egg, beaten
- pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 slice of whole wheat sourdough
- 25g parmesan, or similar vegetarian hard cheese, freshly grated
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
For the pasta sauce
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, peeled, finely chopped
- 1 small chilli, finely chopped
- 1 courgette, trimmed, finely grated
- 30g parmesan, or similar vegetarian hard cheese, freshly grated
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 200g whole wheat penne, cooked according to packet instructions, drained (reserve a couple spoonfuls of the cooking water)
For the spinach balls, blanch the spinach leaves in a pan of boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then drain well and refresh in cold water.
Using your hands, squeeze out as much water from the blanched spinach leaves as possible, then finely chop the spinach.
Transfer the blanched, drained spinach to a bowl, then stir in the beaten egg, nutmeg, garlic purée, breadcrumbs and parmesan. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well until the mixture binds together, adding more breadcrumbs or more water, as necessary, to bind the mixture.
Roll the spinach mixture into walnut-sized balls and place onto a baking tray.
Cover the base of a frying pan in a thin film of olive oil. Heat gently over a low to medium heat.
When the oil is hot, add the spinach balls, in batches if necessary, and fry for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until crisp and golden-brown all over. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on kitchen paper. Repeat with any remaining spinach balls
Meanwhile, for the pasta sauce, heat the oil in a separate frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and chilli and fry for 1-2 minutes, or until softened but not coloured.
Add the courgettes and continue to fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the courgettes have started to soften.
Add the parmesan and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix until well combined, then stir in the reserved cooking water from the pasta and the cooked, drained penne.
To serve, divide the pasta and sauce equally among four serving plates. Place the fried spinach balls on top.