Spinaci a la Romana, or Roman-style spinach with pine nuts and currants or raisins, is one of my favorite Italian recipes for cooking all kinds of greens, and, if you haven't tried it yet, it deserves to be in your repertoire. I learned to make it from a chef from Rome.
I can still remember the first time chef showed me how to make it. He took some thinly sliced garlic, allowing it to brown gently in the pan, swirling the oil around to help it cook slow and even.
At the perfect moment, he added handfuls of fresh spinach, along with toasted pine nuts and a few golden raisins and covered the pan to wilt all the greens for a moment.
Like so many things, tasting is believing. The raisins change as they get warm, soaking up juices and getting plump.
The sweetness they add to the dish is great, dancing around and marrying with the pine nuts, that you will search around for with a utensil until you've found every last one.
Greens I like to use
Tradtionally, the dish was made with wild cicorie, or cicorie selvatiche, but it's fine to use whatever greens you have on hand.
Blanching the greens beforehand in a bit of boiling, salted water, is the best way to ensure that the greens are tender, and taste good to you (and those around you).
The bitter, strong flavor of dandelions or other chicories is a perfect foil for the sweet and nutty of the pine nuts and raisins. If you don't care for dandelions, consider adding them mixed with other greens that you like that are more mild.
Dames rocket is probably the best wild substitute for spinach I can think of, with lambsquarters being a close contender. It has a delicate sweetness and flavor of arugula, and it is just wonderful here. Definitely search them out if you have some closeby
Another great green in the mustard family you should add if you have it. It is a fantastic cooked green.
Nettles, both wood nettles and common stinging nettles, would love to be cooked like this.
Adapting the recipe
The basic recipe here is just pine nuts and raisins, and it's a great one, for a reason, but know that you aren't chained to that combination. Here's a couple ways I may switch it up if I feel like it.
- Use a wild nut. A sprinkle of black walnuts, hickory nuts, or, especially butternuts, can be very nice.
- Use your own dried fruit. Dried wild blueberries or other fruit you've dried at home are great to use, and have the benefit of not being soaked in sugar syrup to keep them pliable. You can refresh your own dried fruit in a splash of wine or warm water for a few minutes before adding them to the greens.
Spinaci alla Romana (Roman Greens with Raisins and Pine Nuts)
- 1 10 inch saute pan
- 1 4 quart pot for blanching
- 8 oz greens such as spinach, or wild greens like lambsquarters or nettles
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 large cloves garlic ends removed, cloves thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons blended olive oil or light olive oil
- 1.5 tablespoons raisins currants, or golden raisins
- A few cracks of the peppermill
- 1 tablespoons freshly toasted pine nuts
- Wash the spinach or other greens and reserve in a colander.
- Bring a small pot of salted water (roughly 1 T to each quart of water) to a boil. Add the greens to the boiling water and cook until they're tender and taste good to you. This will vary depending on your greens. Spinach cooks in seconds, wild greens and chicories may take 5-10 minutes.
- Remove the greens to a bowl of cold water and cool, then squeeze out the water.
- If your greens are long, consider cutting them for easier eating.
- Meanwhile, cook the garlic in the oil on medium heat until golden about 10 minutes. Take your time here, you want the garlic golden, but it should never be dark or black, which will ruin the dish. Ddd the the greens, raisins and pine nuts, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Increase the heat on the pan to high, add a tiny splash of wine to the pan, then increase the heat to evaporate excess liquid.
- Taste and correct the seasoning for salt and pepper, and cook down if it looks too wet. Serve hot.
- Sometimes we serve it with lemon wedges at the table, a touch of crushed red pepper, or an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.