Cool Pasta for a Hot Summer

As the summer continues to roll out, we celebrate any drop in temperature, even just by a few degrees. Any chance to tun the AC off and let the windows open is done without hesitation. Thus spending hours in the kitchen everyday preparing meals, only return there the next night can get pretty hot. So the idea of making simple, healthy, and flavorful dishes that can be eaten again and again throughout the week are music to our ears. Let’s take a look at one of our favorite and most healthy greens available, spinach. It’s typically available year round. Although you won’t be finding it locally in Richmond during the summer, boxed and un-boxed organic spinach can always be found on our shelves. In summer, you can use it for cold soups or quick omelets, or combine it with seasonal tomatoes in easy pastas. Spinach contains iron, vitamin A and vitamin C, manganese,folate, calcium, potassium and a variety of other nutrients.

Try this quick fix that fits beautifully in your refrigerator all week and tastes good no matter what day it is.

Pasta With Tomatoes, Spinach and Goat Cheese

This is an easy and comforting summer pasta to make right now while local Virginia tomatoes are at their best.

1 6-ounce bag of organic baby spinach, rinsed, or 1 bunch (about 12 ounces) fresh spinach, stemmed and washed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 organic garlic cloves, minced

1 pound fresh, ripe local tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped or grated

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons slivered local or organic basil

3/4 pound farfalle or fusilli pasta

2 ounces local goat cheese, crumbled

1. Begin heating a large pot of water for the pasta. Wash the spinach, and wilt in batches over high heat in a large frying pan. Transfer to a colander, rinse with cold water and then squeeze dry. Coarsely chop and set aside.

2. Dry the pan, and heat over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Stir in the tomatoes. Turn up the heat to medium-high, and cook the tomatoes, stirring often, until they have cooked down to a fragrant sauce, 10 to 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the basil and spinach. Keep warm.

3. When the pasta water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the pasta. Cook al dente until firm to the bite. Add a ladleful of the pasta water to the pan with the tomatoes and spinach, then drain the pasta and toss immediately with the tomato-spinach mixture and the goat cheese, which should melt. Serve at once.

Yield: Serves four.

Advance preparation: Wilted spinach will keep in a covered bowl in the refrigerator about four days. You can make this through step 2 several hours before you cook the pasta. Reheat the tomato and spinach mixture, and make sure to thin out with a ladleful of the pasta water before tossing with the pasta and goat cheese.

Nutritional information per serving: 472 calories; 14 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 15 milligrams cholesterol; 70 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams dietary fiber; 95 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during preparation); 18 grams protein

Martha Rose Shulman can be reached at