During those not-so-lazy summer days when my kids were small and very active, there were too many adventures to be had to spend a lot of time in a hot kitchen.
Yet I wanted to be able to provide them with healthy, delicious meals. So we had lots of fruit salads, salad-salads, vegetable casseroles, macaroni dishes…okay, pasta dishes of every kind. Pasta is always such a quick, easy and versatile thing to make; however, as we all know it’s off limits to those of us with Celiac, or wheat/gluten intolerance, unless you’re prepared to make your own gluten-free version. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Except that it takes time and sort of defeats the purpose of getting in and out of the kitchen in a hurry.
But now the supermarkets and specialty health stores are chock full of yummy, time-saving, gluten-free pastas to try: Rice, corn, quinoa, potato, soy (or a combination thereof). Each has a slightly different taste and texture, so go ahead and experiment until you find the ones you like best.
This particular recipe is so fresh and tasty, my kids (and hubby) begged for it, despite the fact it has spinach as one of the main ingredients! It quickly became a family (and company) favorite – summer or winter. I still make it today. The great thing is it can be easily adapted. You can make the sauce several days in advance of when you need it. If you don’t have cherry or grape tomatoes go ahead and use whatever kind of fresh tomatoes you have on hand (although I have to say that it has been my experience that the plum tomatoes just aren’t as juicy – so keep that in mind if you choose to use them). If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, don’t worry, canned/jarred tomatoes also work. Just buy the chopped ones, or chop them up before you add them to the pot. I like to buy sodium free tomatoes so I can control how much salt I’m adding. Oh, and when I’ve been out of fresh spinach, I’ve turned to frozen. And speaking of frozen, I’ve also made this sauce, frozen it, and used it 3 or 4 months later. It was still delicious! But by all means, do try the original version too because there’s still nothing better than fresh!
Spinach and Garlic Tomato Sauce
- olive oil - 1 Tablespoon
- minced garlic - 2 ½ Tablespoons
- cherry or grape tomatoes OR 4 cans chopped tomatoes (14-16 oz. each - SAVE the liquid!) - 8 heaping cups
- water (omit if using canned tomatoes) - ¼ - ½ cup
- fresh (washed) spinach (Don’t worry, it cooks down) or 10 oz. frozen spinach (defrosted and strained) - 4 very large handfuls
- salt - 1 ½ teaspoon
- pepper - 1 teaspoon
- Parmesan Cheese (optional) -
Begin by putting a large pot of water on medium to low heat to boil for the pasta.
In a separate pot, lightly sauté the garlic in olive oil until golden, approximately a minute or so, then add the tomatoes and water. Allow them to simmer together, stirring occasionally, until some of the liquid has cooked off and most of the tomatoes have popped and are soft - approximately 20 - 25 minutes. You may speed up the process somewhat if you feel like slicing the tomatoes in half first - which isn't all that bad if you're sitting under a nice umbrella, sipping a cold beverage and watching your children splash around in the pool while doing so. =)
If you choose to use canned tomatoes, they’re already cooked so it will take a little less time - mainly until some of the liquid cooks off. Add the spinach, stir and lower the heat. Continue to stir the spinach occasionally until it has wilted. Then season with salt and pepper, adding more if you feel it needs it.
Serve over gluten-free pasta. Also tasty on broiled chicken or fish. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese (if you like).
Serves 6 to 8
* A note about the day-after-leftover gluten-free pasta. It's not quite the same as the gluten-filled kind you're probably used to, because with that you could just dump some sauce on top of it and reheat it. Unfortunately, the gluten-free pastas tend to develop a sort of strange texture I really dislike, but I have discovered a couple of different ways to make it taste as good as it did when you first made it!
#1 Put the leftover pasta in a strainer and run really hot water over it for a couple of minutes. It seems to refresh and rejuvenate it. Then drain it really well and pour your heated pasta sauce over it and you're good to go!
#2 If there's enough sauce left to completely cover the pasta, I store it that way and then reheat it all together.
Either way works, but I generally prefer the first technique, as I've gotten the best results with every shape of gluten-free pasta out there.