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Spinach Casarecce pasta with gorgonzola and hazlenuts

Spinach Casarecce with Gorgonzola

Photos, text and recipe by Cathrin Simon


There are a few ingredient combinations that never disappoint. The match of spinach and gorgonzola is definitely one of them. Top it off with toasted nuts and some herbs and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal. 

For this recipe, I did just that. The twist is in how the spinach is added to the recipe: as part of the pasta dough, imbuing a gorgeous green to casarecce pasta.

Casarecce is a pasta shape most often found extruded. However, with the right tools and a bit of patience they can also be homemade. The process is delightfully calming. 

In fact, the name casarecce literally translates to “homemade,” referring to the old practice of rolling pasta dough around a thin metal rod called ferro. In this recipe I am not only using brass ferri, or ferretti, but also a pettine, or pasta comb, for subtle ridges that will pick up even more sauce than a flat surface would. 

But before we dive into the recipe and instructions, a few words about the dough. This recipe uses a variation of classic semolina dough. Instead of working with lukewarm water to hydrate the flour, I substitute it for spinach puree. While there isn’t a massive flavor impact, the spinach lends a wonderful color and, as a bonus, I can rest easy knowing that there are some blanched veggies as part of the pasta. 

If you don’t have time for making your own spinach puree (it’s only a few extra steps but I know that sometimes you just want to get straight to it!) you could easily revert back to lukewarm water. If you do want a colorful plate, some veggie powder as part of the dough can also be a great solution. Check out these colorful cavatelli to read more about the veggie powder method.

Traditional wooden pasta comb and brass pasta rods surrounded by spinach casarecce pastaSpinach pasta

Spinach Casarecce with Gorgonzola

Serves 4

Prep time: 30 Minutes, plus 30 minutes resting
Cook time: 15 Minutes

Special Equipment:

Ingredients

For the spinach pasta dough:
300 grams semolina flour (preferably semolina rimacinata)
100 grams spinach
75-100 milliliters lukewarm water

For the sauce:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
150 grams gorgonzola
Handful of hazelnuts
A few sprigs of oregano

Method

To make the spinach pasta dough:

Prepare the spinach puree. Blanch the spinach by dropping it into boiling water until starting to wilt, then immediately stop the cooking process by placing the drained leaves in ice-cold water. Blend the blanched spinach leaves with 75-100ml of water into a vibrant puree. 

Place the semolina flour on your working board and make a little well in the middle. Weigh out 150 grams of the spinach puree and add it to the center of the semolina, then start whisking with your fork to incorporate the flour. The puree will quickly thicken up. When you approach a custard-like consistency, start working the remaining flour in by scooping it over the center with your fingertips and pressing down. Repeat from all angles until there’s no loose semolina flour left.

Turn the dough onto a cutting board and start kneading the dough for at least five, but preferably 10 minutes. If you feel your dough is too dry or too wet after 2-3 minutes of kneading, add a spritz of water or a dusting of flour respectively. Wrap your dough in a lightly moistened kitchen towel and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. 

To shape the casarecce:

Roll out the pasta dough to ½-cm thick. Using either a pasta wheel, dough scraper, or sharp knife, cut the dough into rectangles, about the size comparable to your pinky finger.

One by one, place the rectangles on your pettine or gnocchi board, between two brass ferretti. By applying pressure and twirling the ferretti around each other away from you, the dough will curl around the ferretti in the typical S-shape. Carefully loosen the finished pasta and place it on a large plate or board, covered with a tea towel to prevent sticking.

To assemble the dish:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add a generous amount of salt. Submerge the casarecce and let them boil for 3-5 minutes. The exact boiling time will depend on the exact size and thickness of your pasta. After 3 minutes, you can take out one piece and cut through it: if you still see lighter colored, dry-looking dough in the middle, they will need a bit longer. You can of course also assess by tasting the pasta.

While the pasta water boils, melt the butter in a frying pan and add the oregano sprigs. Once the butter starts sizzling and the oregano leaves crisp up, take out the herbs and place them on a paper towel. Let the butter brown a bit more on low heat.

In a second pan, toast the hazelnuts on full heat, keeping them moving every 30 seconds or so and taking them out as you see them starting to brown.

Once the casarecce are al dente, transfer them using a slotted spoon or spider strainer directly from the boiling water to the pan with the brown butter. Don’t worry if some pasta water gets transferred along with it, this is actually encouraged as the starch in the pasta water will emulsify the butter and create a lovely coating for the dish. Carefully turn the pasta so the butter coating is evenly distributed, then tear the gorgonzola into small pieces and stir it into the pasta, letting it melt. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer pasta to four plates, topping each plate off with the toasted hazelnuts and the crispy oregano.

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