Dedham Dinner #1: Pasta and (not)Meatballs, Sauteed Spinach
Here is a regular meal I put together on busy weeknights, say, when I have a press release early the next morning. It’s quick, vegetarian, and can come entirely from one store – in this case, trader joe’s. It is a toddler friendly feast, with a small green side nod to veggie-loving adults.
- One jar of marinara sauce, or 1 qt – l of your own homemade marinara
- One package frozen “meatless” meatballs
- One pound (1/2 kg) penne or other toddler-friendly pasta
- about 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- juice from 1/2 fresh lemon
- 10 oz (2 5 oz packages) fresh baby spinach, washed
You will also need two skillets and a stockpot.
First: get 6 quarts salted water boiling.
Second: put (not)meatballs and sauce in lidded skillet, and set heat to simmer. Let them bubble away for a good 15-20 minutes. Don’t worry- everything cooks through.
Is the water boiling yet? Yes? Add the pasta. Tubey pasta (penne, ziti, even elbow mac) is what my toddler can more easily manage, so that’s what we throw into the pot. It usually takes 10-15 minutes to get to al dente.
Put the sauce and (not)meatballs into a serving bowl. I know that’s not real italian, and that the “gravy” should be in a gravy boat with a ladle, but we’re looking to minimize cleanup while providing the option of lots or a little sauce per serving.
Rinse and wipe out the skillet – it’s going in for a second round. Get the skillet back on the burner, medium heat. Warm the olive oil in the pan, then add the garlic. Stir cloves around for about 3 minutes, then add the spinach. Sprinkle the lemon juice on top, along with a pinch of kosher salt, then put the lid on the skillet. Come back in 5 minutes, and stir spinach around to get raw leaves to the bottom of the skillet. It’s ready to come off the stove in less than 5 minutes, when the leaves have compressed to a bright, dense silky green.
Drain pasta in the meantime, and put in big serving bowl. You’re ready to assemble dinner for each diner. Or, if your family is less fussy, just add the sauce bowl to the big pasta bowl and serve.
All in all, it takes 30 minutes.