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Pasta with courgette sauce and spinach balls

Ingredients

For the spinach balls
  • 500g/1lb 2oz spinach leaves, washed thoroughly, tough stalks removed

  • 2 free-range eggs, beaten

  • pinch freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1 garlic clove, blended to a purée with ½ tsp water

  • 110g/4oz fresh white breadcrumbs

  • 50g/2oz parmesan, or similar vegetarian hard cheese, freshly grated

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil

For the pasta sauce
  • 8 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped

  • 1 chilli, finely chopped

  • 2 courgettes, trimmed, finely grated

  • 60g/2¼oz parmesan, or similar vegetarian hard cheese, freshly grated

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 400g/14oz rigatoni, cooked according to packet instructions, drained (reserve a few spoonfuls of the cooking water)

Preparation method

  1. For the spinach balls, blanch the spinach leaves in a pan of salted, boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then drain well and refresh in cold water.

  2. Using your hands, squeeze out as much water from the blanched spinach leaves as possible, then finely chop the spinach.

  3. Transfer the blanched, drained spinach to a bowl, then stir in the beaten eggs, nutmeg, garlic purée, breadcrumbs and parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well until the mixture binds together, adding more breadcrumbs or more water, as necessary, to bind the mixture.

  4. Roll the spinach mixture into walnut-sized balls and place onto a baking tray.

  5. Cover the base of a frying pan in a thin film of olive oil. Heat gently over a low to medium heat.

  6. When the oil is hot, add the spinach balls, in batches if necessary, and fry for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until crisp and golden-brown all over. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on kitchen paper. Keep warm. Repeat the process with the remaining spinach balls.

  7. Meanwhile, for the pasta sauce, heat the oil in a separate frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and chilli and fry for 1-2 minutes, or until softened but not coloured.

  8. Add the courgettes and continue to fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the courgettes have started to soften.

  9. Add the parmesan and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix until well combined, then stir in the reserved cooking water from the pasta and the cooked, drained rigatoni.

  10. To serve, divide the pasta and sauce equally among four serving plates. Place the fried spinach balls on top.

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