This quick pasta dish only takes 15 minutes, is fit for both midweek and weekend dinners and contains two super ingredients, spinach and quinoa.
Spinach – the green knight from Persia
Spinach is one of the quickest and healthiest vegetables you can use in your kitchen. If you buy packages of prewashed spinach, it takes only two minutes to prepare. The spinach originates from ancient Persia (today’s Iran), and was brought to India and China by Arabic traders in the 7th century. Hence the Chinese called it “Persian vegetable”. The Arabs also brought it to Europe in the 9th century, to Sicily which at that time was ruled by the Arabs.
Quinoa – the secret from the Andes
On the other side of the earth a distant relative of the spinach thrives in a harsh climate. Quinoa has been cultivated for 3 000 years in South America. It is very nutritious and even gluten-free. The Incas held quinoa into high esteem, using the seeds in religious rituals.
Although the Inca population never exceeded more than 100,000, they have put their everlasting mark on history. Their empire stretched 2,500 miles through some of the world’s most mountainous terrain from today’s southern Columbia to central Chile. They built Machu Picchu as a royal retreat for one of their emperors. The Incas have been called the Romans of the New World. Their reign ended with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. The Spaniards forbid the cultivation of quinoa, forcing the Incas to grow wheat instead. The last Inca emperor, Túpac Amaru, was killed by the Spanish in 1572.
There is a good reason quinoa was revered by the Incas. Compared to wheat quinoa is more nutritious containing a high amount of protein, magnesium and iron. It endures extreme conditions and is cultivated at an altitude of 4 000 meters above sea level defying temperatures ranging from -8 degrees to 38 degrees Celsius. Because it is so hardy and nutritious, the United Nations has put quinoa to the fore under the slogan “A future sown thousands of years ago”.
The Spanish did not bring the quinoa back to The Old World. Quinoa remained an edible treasure hidden by the Andes range. Instead Columbus and the Spaniards brought the pepper (Capsicum annuum) home to Europe. And back in Old Spain pepper were to become one of the key ingredients in modern Spanish kitchen.
Red is for pimentón
Which colour do you associate with the Spanish kitchen? Maybe your answer is yellow and saffron, but there is another colour more integral to Spain’s food. Red. Red is for pimentón. Pimentón is a spice made from peppers (chili peppers or bell peppers) first dried and then ground to a fine powder. Pimentón is what gives chorizo its characteristic red colour. Pimentón comes in tree versions: mild (dulce), bittersweet (agridulce) og hot (picante). The spice is only produced in the region of Murcia and La Vera in Extremadura. In La Vera the peppers are smoke-dried on chunks of wild oak producing a smoky flavour and intense red colour.
Quick pasta with spinach and quinoa (makes 2–3):
In this pasta dish it is important to use raw sausages because they impart more flavour. You can use a common type of sausage like bratwurst, but then do add a garlic clove when you fry to spice up the sausage.
A bag of prewashed spinach (about 300 g)
2–3 raw sausages
1 tbsp pimentón (preferably Pimentón de la Vera)
200–300 ml heavy cream
a handful of parmesan
salt and pepper
1. First, start boiling the pasta water. You do not want to wait for it to boil after the sauce is finished.
2. Add a lug of oil to a frying pan and fry the spinach in two batches on medium heat until wilted. I takes about 1 minute. Place the spinach on a plate and squeeze out the water with your hands.
3. Add another lug of oil to the frying pan. Slit the sausages and squeeze small meatballs with your hand into the pan. Fry the sausage meatballs with the pimentón until golden, about 5–10 minutes.
4. Finally add the cream and cook until the sauce has thickened a bit.
5. Put the spinach back into the pan. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a generous amount of parmesan.