A small mountain of spinach is tossed in olive oil with a seasoning or two, then packed into a casserole and sprinkled with garlicky bread crumbs. Once in the oven, the spinach collapses into meltingly tender leaves under a smattering of golden, crisped bits. Spinach is cooked just this way in both Italy and in France, but sometimes it gets a good drizzle of olive oil only and no crumbs are used.
Yield: 6 servings
Two 9-ounce bags washed spinach
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Small pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
1 large garlic clove, minced
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss spinach in a very large bowl or pot with 3 tablespoons olive oil until leaves are lightly coated. Toss again with 1/8 teaspoon salt, pinch of black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Mix bread crumbs with garlic and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Pack spinach into a 2½-quart baking dish as best as possible; it will mound. Sprinkle prepared bread crumbs over top.
3. Bake until spinach fills casserole by about half, is very tender, and crumbs are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.
It’s important to salt spinach lightly when it is raw because while it may look like a lot, once it’s cooked it becomes a fraction of its former self!
Don’t have a large enough casserole? Then pack about half the spinach into a smaller dish and bake 10 minutes or so until the leaves begin to collapse. Then put in the rest and sprinkle with the bread crumbs.