Cooking With Confidence
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Main Dishes, Pasta, Quick and Easy, Vegetarian

Mascarpone Spinach Pasta

by Nick

I almost wanted this recipe to fail. It pretty much spits in the face of years of complicated cream sauce creations.

You see, to make a proper cream sauce for pasta you have to whisk together butter and flour, forming a roux. Then you have to continue whisking in liquid until it reaches the perfect consistency and temperature. Then you have to sacrifice a small animal and pray to the pasta gods that your sauce is neither too thin nor too thick.

Or you could just stir some mascarpone cheese in with your spaghetti and eat it. Take that pasta gods!

Yield
Serves 2 with some leftovers.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Mascarpone Spinach Pasta

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces spaghetti pasta
  • 2/3 cups mascarpone cheese
  • 1 lemon, juice only (meyer is best)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 1 big bunch spinach, washed well
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted
  • Pasta water, for cooking

Helpful Equipment

Directions

1) Toast hazelnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

2) Cook pasta in salted water until done (about 1 tablespoon kosher salt per gallon).

3) Meanwhile wash spinach well.

4) Stir together mascarpone, lemon juice, salt, and nutmeg.

5) When pasta is done, reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water.

6) Drain pasta and then add pasta back to pan. Pour over mascarpone sauce as well as about 1/2 cup of pasta water. Stir pasta over low heat.

7) Stir in spinach and continue stirring until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.

8) Sauce should thicken as it cooks, if it is too thick than add more pasta water by the tablespoon.

9) Serve pasta immediately garnished with toasted nuts.

Recipe slightly adapted from a Kitchn recipe.

This Recipe is Nuts

I think one of the most important steps for this recipe is the topping for the pasta: toasted hazelnuts. It gives the pasta some great texture and complexity so leave them out at your own peril.

Toast the nuts before you even start thinking about the pasta though because the rest of the dish cooks very quickly.

Just roughly chop them and toast them in a dry skillet until they are fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.

hazelnuts

Just a little toasted.

Again, because this recipe takes no time, prep all your other ingredients as well.

That includes washing your spinach really well. I use a salad spinner to make sure mine is nice and clean. I used a full bunch of adult spinach, but you could use baby spinach if you wanted.

spinach

Have to use fresh for this recipe.

As far as the pasta sauce goes, it doesn’t get much easier. Just stir together the lemon juice with the mascarpone cheese, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt.

The original recipe used a Meyer lemon for this which I think would be best, but I couldn’t find one so I just used a normal lemon… still delicious.

sauce

The only real sauce step.

The Pasta and Water

I would just use plain old spaghetti for this recipe. No reason to get fancy!

pasta

spaghetti is perfect for this.

Cook your pasta in salted water (about 1 tablespoon kosher salt per gallon of water) until it’s al dente. Then comes the most important part of this recipe: Save some of the pasta water before you drain the pasta!

I just scoop out a few cups of the water when the pasta is almost done. You won’t need more than a cup probably but it’s easiest to just scoop out a bunch.

important

The important part.

The pasta water is important because it’s salty and starchy so it will make your sauce really smooth and also give it some seasoning.

Then just drain your pasta and then pour it back into the same pot that you cooked it in. Then pour in your mascarpone mixture and about 1/2 cup of pasta water. Stir this all together. It might look a bit watery at first, but it’ll thicken up so don’t worry about it.

mixing

Looks a bit watery…

Then just pour all of your spinach into the pot. Keep the pot over low heat and the spinach will quickly wilt and fold into the pasta. The sauce will also continue to thicken as you stir it together.

After a minute or two, you’ll have a lovely pasta!

thickened

After a few minutes.

Serve this up as soon as possible garnished with a big handful of toasted hazelnuts.

done

Done deal!

Honestly, if I ate this without seeing it made, I would think that someone worked way harder on the sauce. It’s the perfect amount of creaminess and the lemon balances the flavors perfectly.

It’s possible that it’s cheating, but I’m not above it.

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13 comments on “Mascarpone Spinach Pasta

  1. This looks so easy! Great midweek dinner! I had no idea marscapone could make a cream sauce. YUM! Have to try this soon!

    1. I substituted with laughing cow cheese wedges only because I didn’t have enough mascarpone cheese but the end result was delicious. I think it lightened it up a bit! I’m a fellow weight watcher too :o)

  2. I will definitely try this. Next time, instead of mascarpone, you can try ricotta – with the same dilution method. If you could score real ricotta (or make your own), you will have a delicious, creamy and relatively low-fat main course. If you can only find the tub stuff, it’s ok too, though the result tends to be a bit grainy. I am Pugliese by birth, and ‘pasta con la ricotta’ is a staple of our diet.

  3. This sounds amazing. I’m not a huge fan of warm spinach though, so I was thinking of substituting some steamed broccoli. Do you think I should still add the hazelnuts? The mascarpone and lemon still sound perfect, but I wasn’t sure if the nuts were still in the flavor neighborhood. Thanks! :)

    1. I think the hazelnuts would be optional if you used broccoli. It would be okay, but probably not as necessary. Good luck!

  4. I did a cream sauce without a roux once and I was surprised it worked too. The one I did was a Barefoot Contessa recipe for gorgonzola sauce that just reduced cream.

    Looks like yours turned out perfectly!

  5. I had to make a few changes because I was lacking some of the ingredients but the end product was phenomenal. I doubled it to account for 4 people. I ended up using laughing cow cheese wedges along with the marscapone and I substituted the hazelnuts with pine nuts. It was a big hit!

  6. The recipe looks good, and I am grateful for techniques tips very very much ! the only change I’d like to make is to use mushrooms and some garlic in this recipe, instead of hazelnuts.

    Would you think, dear author, it will come out well, too ?
    Do I keep the rest of the ingredients as they’re ?

    Thank you very much for your answer asap.

    1. Hey Elaine, Sure… I would think you could add those without too much issue. I would keep some sort of toasted nut if you can, but if not, that’s fine too. It’s a pretty flexible pasta recipe so feel free to make it your own! Good luck.

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