This is a great recipe from Marcella Hazan. Simple and wonderful with fresh ricotta (see how to make your own!). I used frozen spinach and it worked great -- although I'm sure fresh would be good too if you are willing to put in the extra steps.
I also halved the butter in this recipe and it did not suffer (the original recipe calls for 1/4 pound or a full stick and I got away with maybe 3 to 4 Tablespoons. Reserve a little of the pasta water to mix in to this at the end.
Penne con Spinaci e Ricotta
(Penne with Ricotta and Spinach Sauce)
serves 4 to 6
2 pounds fresh spinach* or 2 (10-oz) packages of frozen, chopped spinach, thawed (see note below)
1/4 lb. butter (1 stick) (I used half this amount)
salt to taste
1 pound penne or other short tubular macaroni
1/2 cup fresh whole-milk ricotta (I used more) (see how to make your own!)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Choose a skillet that can contain all the spinach later without overcrowding. Put in 4 Tbs butter (I used 2 Tbs here) and turn heat to medium high. When buter is melted, add spinach and a liberal 2 to 3 pinches of salt (bear in mind that this and the ricotta will be the principal component of the sauce and ricotta has no salt, so season liberally). Saute spinach for 2 minutes or so, turning frequently, then turn off the heat.
Cook pasta in 4 to 5 quarts salted boiling water until tender but al dente, firm to the bite. Set aside some pasta water before draining pasta in a colander, shake vigorously and transfer pasta to a warm serving bowl. Add spinach from the pan, ricotta, remaining 4 Tbs (I used 2 Tbs here) of butter, and all the grated cheese. Add pasta water as needed. Mix thoroughly and serve at once.
*Note: I used frozen spinach. If you use fresh spinach, remove and discard the stems, soak spinach in several changes of basins of cold water, dunking it with your hands until no more grit appears, and then cook the spinach in a covered pan over medium heat with a pinch of salt until no more water is clinging to the leaves, and then cook until tender, about 10 minutes more. Drain well and when spinach is cool enough to handle, press as much liquid from it as you can, but do not squeeze too tightly. Chop spinach fine and set aside.