I was very happy with this dish; the image in my head wasn't nearly as good as the end product! This is always a good thing...especially when I am using random items, and making it up as I go along.
We are still adjusting to cooking for only two people, and had cooked way too much spaghetti for our bolognese a couple of nights ago. This was my way of using that already cooked pasta, along with the last few olives in the jar, the pinenuts and some of the ricotta cheese that was open in the fridge. Oh yes, and the half glass of wine that somehow did not get drunk.
The basis of the sauce is a paste made from sundried tomatoes, garlic, parsley and olives. The wine, some chicken stock and ricotta provided the liquid, and shredded fresh spinach was added at the last minute to wilt from the heat of the pasta.
If you do not have already cooked spaghetti, cook enough for the number of people you will be serving. The sauce will make enough for two large servings. If your pasta is already cooked and cooled, heat a pot of water, and add the pasta to it a couple of minutes before you are ready to serve. This will re-heat it.
For the paste you will need:
1/4 cup fresh parsley, loosely packed
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons toasted pinenuts
2 tablespoons roughly chopped sundried tomatoes in oil
2 tablespoons roughly chopped pitted black olives
Using a large, sharp knife, chop these ingredients as finely as possible, creating a chunky paste.
Set aside until needed.
Using some olive oil, cook until soft:
1/4 medium onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
8 chicken tenders, cut into 1/2" pieces
Season with salt and pepper and cook until the chicken is almost fully cooked.
1/4 cup dry white wine
Cook until reduced by half.
1/2 cup chicken stock
Cook until the liquid has reduced by a third. At this point, you can add the cooked pasta to the boiling water to re-heat it. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot it was heated in.
the sundried tomato and olive paste
Cook, stirring it into the sauce.
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
a good handful of grated fresh Parmesan
Stir this in to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from the heat.
Add the sauce to the hot pasta.
2 cups shredded fresh spinach
Using tongs, gently mix the sauce and spinach in, until all of the spaghetti is well coated.
Serve, garnishing with extra toasted pinenuts and grated Parmesan.
- As I mentioned, I was using the leftover cooked spaghetti from a previous meal; any shape of pasta can be used, but the consistency of the sauce coated the strands of spaghetti really nicely.
- I chose not to make the paste in the blender or food processor as I wanted some chunkiness to remain, so I chopped it by hand, as finely as I could. It can be pureed in a processor or blender, that is completely a personal choice.
- The olives I used were black, and still had the pits in. I used the side of a large knife to crush them and easily remove the pits.
- These were the last of a jar of olives my daughter had received as a housewarming gift, and were in sunflower oil...the oil was nicely infused with the olive flavours, so I used it for cooking my onions and chicken.
- The oil from the sundried tomatoes is another choice for cooking the onions and chicken.
- Lightly toasting the pinenuts first brings out more of the nuttiness; they can be toasted in a low temperature oven, or in a dry pan on low heat. Either way, check them and stir them often, they tend to burn very quickly.
- If you wish to add other herbs, think about basil or oregano.
- The chicken is optional...I had just bought and frozen some chicken breasts. I always remove the tenders for another use, and added them to what was originally going to be a vegetarian pasta.
- Add prawns, scallops or even mussels instead. If you use mussels, add them to the onions along with the white wine, cover and allow them to steam until they have all opened. Remove the mussels, and add them back right at the end, just enough to heat them through.
- If you do not have ricotta, you could omit it completely. You could also substitute heavy cream, mascarpone cheese or goat cheese. These will all add that creaminess that the ricotta adds. The goat cheese will also add a tanginess; the others will add richness.
- Chopped cooked spinach can be used instead of fresh, so can other cooked greens such as kale or rapini. Other fresh greens that will will nicely in the hot sauce are arugula or beet greens.