THE WASHINGTON POST – One of my most vivid early food memories is my first taste of spanakopita at a Greek Church festival in Queens, New York, where I grew up. I remember hesitating to try it at first, like most kids when they encounter new foods, but with that first bite I was changed forever.
From that moment on, I would seek to relive that unexpectedly blissful experience of the shatteringly crisp, airy dough enveloping the richly savoury, perfectly salty, and fragrant spinach and cheese filling.
To this day I make some version of spanakopita regularly, except in the summer, when I am loath to turn on my oven or spend much time in the kitchen at all. My cravings for it are year-round though, which is why I spun its unmistakable flavour into this easy, breezy pasta dinner, which is done in the time it takes to cook the pasta, and requires very little prep work.
To make the sauce, you first sauté garlic and scallion in olive oil, then add baby spinach to the skillet, handfuls at a time, allowing what’s in the pan to wilt a bit before adding the next batch. It will seem like a huge amount of spinach at first, but go with it – its volume shrinks quickly and dramatically. (The spinach before-and-after never stops amazing me.)
After just a few minutes, when the spinach is wilted but still bright green, you add a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper and remove it from the heat until the pasta is ready. The cooked pasta is tossed into the skillet along with a generous amount of crumbled feta cheese, fresh dill and enough reserved pasta water to loosen everything and encourage a creamy sauce to form as the feta melts.
Garnished with some more dill, feta crumbles and scallion greens, it’s a pasta dinner that’s simultaneously rich and fresh, a summery realisation of spanakopita dreams.
SPAGHETTI WITH SPINACH, FETA AND DILL
Four to six servings
This recipe brings all the flavours of a spanakopita (Greek spinach pie) filling – spinach, feta, dill and scallion – to a quick and easy pasta dinner, for a meal that is satisfyingly creamy, but also light and fresh tasting.
Storage Notes: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to three days.
12 ounces spaghetti (preferably whole-wheat)
Four tablespoons olive oil, divided
Two cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
Two medium scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced, dark green parts reserved separately, for serving
Eight ounces fresh baby spinach
One tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
One-quarter teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
One-quarter teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
Seven ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Two tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
Set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta one minute less than the package instructions. Reserve about one cup of the pasta water, then drain.
While the pasta is cooking, in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat three tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and the light green and white parts of the scallions and cook, stirring, until the garlic is pale golden, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach a few handfuls at a time, adding more as the spinach in the pan begins to wilt. Cook, stirring, until all the spinach is wilted, but still bright green, about two minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside until the pasta is ready.
After you drain the pasta, return the skillet to medium heat and add the drained pasta. Add about one cup of the feta cheese and the dill and cook, tossing to combine and adding pasta water as needed to loosen and coat the pasta, until most of the feta is melted, about one minute. Drizzle in the remaining olive oil. Taste, and season with additional lemon juice, salt and pepper, if desired.
Slice the dark scallion greens. Divide across six bowls, garnish with the freshly sliced scallion, dill and the remaining feta cheese and serve.
Nutrition per serving (one cup), based on six | Calories: 394; Total Fat: 17g; Saturated Fat: 6g; Cholesterol: 29mg; Sodium: 452mg; Carbohydrates: 47g; Dietary Fibre: 0g; Sugar: 0g; Protein: 13g