I happen to love spinach. I much prefer it to kale, which I know is so trendy right now. Well, no one’s ever accused this old lady of being on trend.
Spinach is fabulous raw, like in salads or even sandwiches. But when it’s simply sautéd with some oil and garlic, or creamed, or baked in a gratin with some ricotta or cheese, it becomes even more magical.
This is one of those magical gratins featuring spinach, plus leeks and red bell peppers. Yes, Christmas colors in a gratin. I can’t help myself. Green and red are two of my favorite colors. Another reason that I love Christmas so much.
This gratin is easy to make, and can be made ahead and reheated as well. It’s a fabulous side dish to protein. This evening I paired it with grilled flank steak. You don’t even need pasta or potatoes added to the meal, because there’s plenty of heft from within this gratin.
Here’s the recipe:
Spinach Gratin with Red Bell Peppers
Olive oil or butter
20 ounces fresh spinach leaves
2 small red bell peppers*
1 large leek, cleaned, dried, thinly sliced
1 large shallot, diced
1/2 cup full-fat ricotta
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper, or to taste
4 ounces finely grated white cheese like mozzarella, provolone, or Swiss
Using a large skillet or even a wok, heat a little oil, about 1 tablespoon over medium high heat.
You will need to work with the fresh spinach in batches, so it’s manageable.
Add approximately 1/4 of the amount of spinach to the skillet. Carefully toss and turn it around so that every spinach leaf touches the hot skillet and gets coated with the oil.
It takes a few minutes for the spinach to completely wilt.
Place the sautéd in a colander in the sink, and return to complete the remaining spinach.
Meanwhile, place the ricotta, cream, eggs, salt and white pepper in a medium bowl.
Whisk the mixture until smooth. .
Using the same skillet, heat a little oil, about 2 tablespoons, over medium-high heat. Add the red bell peppers and leeks to the skillet.
Sauté them for a few minutes, then add the shallots and sauté for another few minutes.
Then turn off the heat and let the vegetables cool off a bit. Then remove approximately half of the vegetables and place in a small bowl; set aside.
Using your hands, if the spinach is cool enough to handle, grab a handful of spinach and squeeze the excess water out of it. Alternatively, you can roll handfuls of spinach in paper towels or clean dish towels to remove the water. Place the dried spinach into the skillet along with the vegetables.
At this point, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Stir the spinach and vegetable together to combine.
Stir the vegetables and the ricotta mixture well, then turn it out into an 8″ square baking dish, greased if necessary.
Bake for approximately 55 minutes; you can test the gratin with a cake tester, and it should come out clean just as with a quiche.
This gratin is very spinachy, but it’s also blessed with a soft, quiche-like interior, plus a sprinkling of vegetables. It’s slightly rich, but also very hearty. I hope you enjoy it!
* You could use jarred roasted red bell peppers if you wish, instead of raw, but I don’t think the resulting flavors will be much different.