Spinach is so versatile and can be easily added to your favourite pasta recipe. | Marc Fosh


Spinach’s reputation as a superfood might be a little exaggerated with Popeye having the power to turn into a human rocket after just a single can, but there is no denying the fact that it is gorgeous to eat, and no matter how you serve it, (if you don’t hopelessly overcook it) spinach is packed with nutrition as well as great flavour.

The benefits to adding this vegetable to your diet are numerous and regular consumption of this food will certainly help to contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Firstly, it is low in cholesterol and saturated fat. It also contains B6, which is said to help lower the risk of heart disease and it’s also known for its rich content of iron; iron is essential to help oxygenate our red blood cells, which then carry the oxygen rich blood throughout our bodies.

Spinach is also high in Vitamin C, which is a vital part of our diet to help boost the immune system and fight off cancer causing agents and, to top it all off, it is also an excellent source of dietary fibre to help keep our digestive systems regular and functioning properly. A native plant of Asia, spinach grows to be approximately 12 inches tall. It is most commonly an annual, which means it must be replanted each year, however in a climate that doesn’t get prolonged cold winters such as ours here in Mallorca, spinach can grow all year round. It was first domesticated in Nepal and should be grown in light fertile soil that easily retains moisture. It should be planted where it will get a great deal of sun when the weather is cool but gets some shade when the temperatures get warmer.

I love to eat Spinach raw and baby spinach is a great nutrient-packed substitute for any kind of lettuce in a salad and perfect when topped with goat’s cheese, fresh fruit and a drizzle of vinaigrette. When cooking, you need to be most aware that spinach contains a great deal of water, so what looks like a huge amount won’t be when it’s cooked. The simplest way to prepare spinach is to pick out and discard any damaged or brown leaves and remove any tough stalks, fill the sink with cold water, then plunge the spinach in the water and swirl the leaves around. Do this in two or three changes of water, then let it all drain in a colander, shaking it well over the sink. To cook the spinach, I would recommend that you absolutely avoid water. For 500g of spinach leaves, melt 10g of butter or 2 tablespoons of good olive oil in a large, thick-based saucepan, then keeping the heat at medium, pack the spinach leaves in. Add a little salt, put on a tight-fitting lid and let it cook for about 30 seconds, then take the lid off and you’ll find the spinach has collapsed down into the butter or oil. Give it a stir, so that the top leaves get pushed down to the base of the pan, replace the lid and give it another 30 seconds or so, shaking the pan a couple of times. I find the whole operation takes less than 2 minutes. Season with freshly ground pepper and a little grated nutmeg and serve.

Spinach is so versatile and can be easily added to your favourite pasta recipe such as lasagne, or even omelettes and a whole array of egg dishes. In Italian cuisine, the use of spinach and ricotta together is quite common, and this is a combination that I personally love. Spinach also has a special affinity with fish, oysters, mushrooms, sesame seeds, Parmesan and cream. Use spinach cooked in soups, casseroles and stir-fries or raw in delicious salads, smoothies and juices. Apart from being a nutritional gold mine, spinach will also liven up so many recipes in your kitchen.

Spinach and ricotta lasagne with fresh basil

Serves 6

  • 300g dried lasagne sheets
  • 100g parmesan, finely grated
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 800g fresh spinach leaves
  • 250g ricotta
  • Fresh basil leaves to garnish

For the Bechamel:

  • 60g of unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 60g flour
  • 500ml milk
  • Seasoning

1 First make the bechamel. Bring the milk to the boil with the bay leaf and the peppercorns. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes before straining. Then melt the butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan, stir in the flour, and cook over a low heat for 3-4 minutes.
When smooth, start adding some of the strained milk. Stir until smooth, and then add more milk until the sauce is thickened, whisking regularly until you have a smooth, thick béchamel sauce.
Season with salt and pepper.

2 Gently cook the onions in a little olive oil until they start to soften. Roughly chop the spinach or leave whole if using baby spinach and stir into the onions, allow to wilt and remove any liquid. Add this mixture to the bechamel sauce with the ricotta and most of the parmesan. Season well.

3 Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

4 Spread a quarter of the sauce into the base of a big baking dish and top with a layer of lasagne sheets, then repeat the layers and finish with a little sauce on top and scatter over the remaining parmesan.

5 Bake for 35 minutes until the lasagne is cooked through and the top is golden brown. Scatter with fresh basil leaves and serve immediately.

Baby spinach, quinoa, orange & walnut salad with parmesan-yoghurt dressing

Prep time: 15 minutes
No cooking time

Serves 6

  • 150g baby spinach leaves
  • 100g walnuts, crushed
  • 2 oranges, peeled & cut into segments
  • 100g quinoa, cooked & chilled
  • Sea salt

Place all the ingredients in a large salad bowl in mix together. Dress with Parmesan-yoghurt salad dressing and serve immediately.

Parmesan-youghurt salad dressing

  • 200g natural Greek yoghurt
  • 1tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 100g Parmesan cheese
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Blend all the ingredients together and season to taste.