My two boys agree on two things: they love the color green and they hate green vegetables. In Arabic, the color green (akhdar) and the name for vegetables (khodar) have the same root, so for me the connection is natural. For St. Patrick’s Day, my plan was to make a green vegetable based meal.
Hold on: why does a Moroccan have anything to do with St. Patrick’s Day? According to some obscure math that makes my husband a quarter Irish, my kids are, by deduction, Irish as well. I was introduced to St. Patrick’s Day during my first year in the US, years ago when my husband was a student in Chicago. The entire Chicago River turned green overnight. It was a perplexing experience for me.
Now, back to my green meal. It’s true that I could dye some vegetable green, like potatoes, for example. After all, thanks to Dr. Seuss, green eggs are already a normal part of the culinary world of kids.
But what’s on my mind doesn’t need any dye, and it’s really delicious. Here’s a hint: Popeye the Sailor Man?
When I made green spinach pasta the first time, my kids thought I used food coloring. They were shocked when I told them the ingredients, but it was too late, they had already eaten two servings! Since then, I’ve made green pasta several times. The first time I followed the recipe to a “T,” and I thought it was too easy. The second time I made it from memory and discovered some pitfalls. In sharing this recipe with you, I want to emphasize where it can go wrong.
You’ll need: 2 cups of all-purpose flour (or half semolina and half flour), 3 eggs, 1 pound of spinach leaves, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 tsp olive oil. There are no exact measurements. When making the dough, add more flour if it’s too wet, add some egg if it’s too dry…
First, boil the spinach. Some recipes call for 15 minutes, but I find that spinach wilts quickly, so 2 minutes are enough. Drain the cooked spinach under cold water. Make sure the spinach is completely cooled off (if it’s still warm, it will cook the eggs), then gently squeeze away the excess water with your hand. This is important because the pasta dough gets its moisture mainly from the eggs, not from the water. Next, use a blender to process the spinach and eggs, mixing just enough to get a homogenous paste. At this point, if you change your mind, you can take the Dr. Seuss route and make a green egg omelette!
Now for the pasta dough. In a large bowl, use your fingers to mix together the salt and the flour (and semolina), then make a well in the middle. Add the green egg mixture and the olive oil, then work everything together for about 5 minutes. When your dough forms an round shape, move it to a well-floured flat working surface and continue kneading for 5 more minutes with both hands. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Now, flour the working area generously. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and, with a rolling-pin, flatten each piece as thin as possible. Hang each layer on the back of a chair lined with a folded kitchen towel and allow to dry for 45 minutes. After that, sprinkle the table with flour and stack the 4 layers of pasta, one on top of the other with flour sprinkled between layers. Then roll the whole thing into a cylindrical shape.
Slice the pasta roll with a big, sharp knife. You can cut 2-inch wide strips if you’re making lasagna, 1/4-inch wide ribbons if you’re making fettuccine. I decided that fettucine is best for St Patrick’s Day, since the noodles look like the snakes in St. Patrick’s Day mythology.
You can cook the noodles right away, and it should only take a couple minutes. The longer you wait, the more the pasta dries and the longer it takes to cook. You can serve the pasta with a red sauce or a white sauce, but I prefer it with just butter and grated cheese.