I have a special affection for pasta sauces that can be hustled up in the time it takes to cook the pasta, and even more so for ones that can be pulled together from bits and pieces that I already have to hand. They make me feel competent and organised, even when I’m patently not, and create perfect, simple weeknight dinners.
There always seem to some baby spinach leaves hanging around in my crisper drawer. This isn’t because I am some paragon of good housekeeping; I buy them by stuffing a couple of big handfuls into a bag at the market, and it’s always – always! – more than I need.
Of course, it’s the garlic and chilli flakes that inject the real flavour into this simple dish. I’ve set a bare minimum for both below, so wind them up or down as you prefer.
As this recipe is more of a flexible concept than a strict blueprint, use any kind of pasta that you like. I prefer short shapes, something you can eat with a fork, slumped on the couch in front of my current televisual obsession. But longer strands are fine as well, if that’s what you have to hand, and don’t mind the extra business of twirling as you eat.
Pasta with baby spinach, garlic and chilli
Easy does it.
200g (7 oz) pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot or small onion
1 clove garlic
⅛ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
sea salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
100g (3 cups) baby spinach leaves
extra virgin olive oil, to serve
Parmesan cheese, to serve
Warm the olive oil in a wide, roomy pan over medium heat. Chop the onion and finely slice the clove or garlic, adding them to the oil along with the chilli flakes. Season with some salt and pepper. Cook gently, letting the onion become soft and translucent and the oil become infused with all the flavours.
30 seconds before the pasta is due to be ready, add the baby spinach leaves – giving them a rough chop if they are large – to the pan with the onion, stirring to get them wilting.
Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, tossing to coat and tangle up some spinach.
Divide between two bowls. Drizzle over a slug of extra virgin olive oil and a scattering of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.