Angel Hair Pasta With Spinach and Herbs Recipe

February 9, 2015 1 Comment

Angel Hair Pasta With Spinach and Herbs Recipe

How to Make a Simple Pasta with Spinach & Herbs

Plus Pasta Making Tips For Perfect Pasta

When you think of cooking pasta, the first thing you typically do is throw a pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a full, rolling boil. This is perfect for dried pasta but fresh pasta is too delicate to be cooked above a slow boil.

So now is a good time to discuss the “correct” way to boil pasta and then throw in a recipe for Lemon Angel Hair Pasta with Spinach and Herbs to illustrate the process.

First, the lesson:

Plan on using 1 quart of water per each 4 oz of dried pasta. For one pound of pasta, use 1 gallon of water. You do not need to measure this, just make sure that you have enough water in the pot that the pasta has room to move and expand and not get stuck together.

One of the biggest mistakes home cooks make when it comes to cooking pasta is not using enough water. It is imperative you have a pot big enough

Heat the water over high heat with the lid on. The water will boil much more quickly if all the heat energy isn’t dissipating into the kitchen.

Once the water has come to a full boil, add salt. If you add salt while the water is still cold, the salt can sit on the bottom of your pan and cause pitting. Add enough salt so that the water tastes like the ocean.

Do not add oil to your pot. The oil can coat the pasta and keep it from absorbing your sauce fully.

Drop the pasta into the pot all at once, and let the water come back up to a full boil. You might have to adjust the heat a little to prevent boil-over.

Stir the pasta once or twice, and then let cook in the boiling water until it is very flexible, but still just a bit firm in the center: al dente. This can be done according to your taste and could take from 3-10 minutes, depending on the type of dried pasta you are cooking.

Drain the pasta, always reserving some of your cooking liquid to add to your sauce. This starchy water will help to thicken your sauce and provide a very silky mouth feel.

I never rinse my pasta unless I need it to be cold for making pasta salad, for example.

I always return the pasta to the cooking pot and finish the pasta and sauce together.

For more tips on cooking pasta, see my 10 Pasta Cooking Tips

Lemon Angel Hair Pasta with Spinach and Herbs

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Lemon Angel Hair Pasta with Spinach and Herbs

Mise en place is very important with this recipe. Make sure that you have everything ready, because this will go pretty quickly. Read through the recipe at least once before beginning to cook.


1 pound dried angel hair pasta

½ cup reserved pasta cooking liquid

½ pound fresh baby spinach

½ teaspoon granulated garlic dissolved in 1 teaspoon of water (this step will open up the flavors of the dried garlic)

¼ cup lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4-5 gratings of fresh nutmeg

2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley

2 tablespoons minced lemon verbena (if available), optional

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup toasted pine nuts

How To Prepare At Home

Bring 6 quarts water to a full boil. Salt the water.

Add the pasta all at once. Stir gently to submerge. Reduce the heat slightly to prevent boil-over, and boil pasta according to the packaging until al dente.

When the pasta is done, remove and reserve ½ cup of starchy water the pasta cooked in.

Drain pasta and return the pasta back to the pot you cooked it in. Turn the heat up to medium-high.

Add the reserved liquid, spinach, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir gently but thoroughly until the spinach is wilted and the sauce has reduced and emulsified, about 3 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and fold in the grated cheese and the minced herbs. Correct seasonings.

Plate and top each serving with some toasted pine nuts.



Last modified on Fri 3 June 2016 3:37 pm

Comments (1)

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  1. A couple of additions: In the fifth instruction, it’s not just a matter of dropping the pasta into the water all at once. You must do so in a manner where the pasta is also separated. My students will throw a pound of spaghetti into the pot as one tight bunch like it is in the package and then wonder why it sticks together. One than one or two stirs may be required so the pasta doesn’t stick to itself or the bottom of the pot before the water returns to a boil. Once a full boil is achieved, stirring is required less, especially if using a pasta pot with a perforated insert.

    The process of cooking dried pasta is two, separate steps: rehydration and cooking. Soak dried pasta in water to rehydrate it prior to cooking. The cooking time will be greatly reduced. For long, thin shapes, one hour is usually sufficient. For shapes like penne, I usually soak for at least 3 hours. The other advantage of a pre-soak is that much less water is required for the cooking. This also speeds up the entire process since only enough water to float the pasta is required to be heated. I believe Dave Arnold was the first to propose pre-soaking pasta.

    In fact, even dried pasta can be cooked in small amounts of water. The large amount of water is to reduce the recovery time when the pasta is added to the water. Because there is less water to reheat, a small amount of water will heat quite fast. I believe Harold McGee has demonstrated this on a number of occasions.

    Alain Ducasse, wrote in an article in the NY Times (March 13, 2002) how you could cook pasta in almost no liquid if you cooked it the same way as one cooks risotto by adding the liquid in stages. His recipe used 2-3/4 cups of stock to cook 7 ounces of dried pasta. The recipe even created it’s own sauce!

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