Creamed spinach is a classic holiday side dish. Fresh spinach leaves are blanched and then stirred into a luxurious cheesy cream sauce. It’s the ultimate dinner comfort food that’s easy to whip up!
One easy way to make vegetables disappear fast from the dinner table is to make a pot of creamed spinach. The tender leafy greens are very neutral in flavor, so it effortlessly takes on the taste of savory sauces. To create a luscious velvety texture, the preparation is broken into two simple parts.
It begins with blanching to cook down the bulky spinach without it completely dissolving into mush. Then the tender spinach is suspended in a rich bechamel sauce. By making a roux, a combination of flour and butter helps to instantly thicken the milk and cream. A little bit of aged Pecorino Romano cheese adds just the right tanginess to the dish.
How to make creamed spinach
- Trim and wash the spinach.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Add the spinach in batches, cooking until just wilted.
- Drain in a colander, rinse, and then squeeze the water out with hands.
- Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet.
- Saute garlic and shallots onion until fragrant.
- Add the flour, stir and cook 2 minutes.
- Gradually add milk and cream, stirring until sauce is thickened.
- Whisk in the cheese, nutmeg, and pepper.
- Add spinach and cook until warmed through.
Blanch in batches
To quickly cook the spinach, blanch the greens for just 30 seconds in three batches. In under 2 minutes, 16 ounces (or about 10 cups) of fresh spinach compresses down to about 2 cups cooked. Just imagine trying to cook all of those leaves in one pan, it would take a long time and overflow!
Make a creamy sauce
The hallmark of a delicious creamed spinach recipe is the sauce. I use a classic bechamel base, which is roux for thickening plus milk or cream. It’s the beginning part of sauces like alfredo or macaroni and cheese. I add a combination of half milk and half cream for richness, but not overly heavy.
The starches in the flour swell and thicken when heated, turning a runny liquid into a sauce that clings beautifully to the spinach leaves. Pecorino Romano, an Italian aged sheep’s milk cheese, adds a hint of tanginess to the sauce. A sprinkle of nutmeg adds a sweetness that infuses throughout.
Deepen the flavor of the dish
Earthy alliums like minced garlic and shallots add instant depth to the cream sauce. They also add a punch of aroma the second they hit the hot melted butter. Sauteed shallots develop delicate sweet caramelized notes compared to adding them raw which would taste sulfurous in the sauce.
What I serve with this
Why should you blanch the spinach
Blanching quickly cooks down a large volume of spinach leaves, which are made up of over 90% water. This technique makes it much easier to add to the sauce. The fast 30 second blanch seasons the greens with salt, while preserving texture and color. Make sure to rinse the spinach with cool water to halt the cooking process so they don’t become mushy.
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- 16 ounces spinach, washed and stems removed
- 2 quarts water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, for seasoning water
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- ½ cup diced shallots, ¼-inch dice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup pecorino romano, finely shredded
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Remove the stems from the spinach or leave on if using baby spinach then wash and shake off the excess water.
- Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a large pot.
- Add a third of the spinach and blanch for 30 seconds. Transfer cooked spinach to a colander. Repeat with the remaining spinach.
- Run water over the spinach to stop the cooking process until they are cool to the touch.
- Gently squeeze out excess moisture from spinach using your hands.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the butter and once that's melted add the garlic, saute until fragrant, 30 seconds.
- Add shallots and cook until tender, 2 minutes.
- Add the flour, stir to combine and cook for 2 minutes.
- Slowly add in the milk and heavy cream, whisking to combine until a thickened sauce is formed, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low, whisk in the cheese, nutmeg, and black pepper.
- Add in the cooked spinach, stir and cook until warmed through, 2 to 4 minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve immediately.
- Recipe makes about 2 cups
- Serving Size: ½ cup
- Storage: Creamed spinach can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
- Reheat: Microwave for 90 to 120 seconds, in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until warmed through.
- Using Frozen Spinach: Defrost about 2 cups of frozen spinach, squeezing out some of the excess moisture. Add to the cream sauce to warm.
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