Spinach lovers and haters alike will love this vegetarian side dish that's baked in a creamy béchamel sauce.
I adore cooked spinach, but my toddler (and some adults in my life who will go unnamed) aren't big fans. Despite this fact, I've never had anyone turn down my spinach gratin. I'll let you in on a little secret about this vegetable-packed side dish: It's a whole lot like macaroni and cheese. Seriously! You start with a simple béchamel (just butter, flour and milk) and stir in some grated cheese, and then instead of pasta, you add cooked spinach.
The beauty of the dish is that the creaminess and saltiness don't mask the flavor of the spinach — they bring out its best side. Freshly grated nutmeg (always a great match with dark, leafy greens) rounds out the flavor perfectly.
Packed with nearly 8 cups of spinach, this creamy side dish is far more virtuous than it tastes!
- 8 ounces (1/2 pound) spinach leaves, thoroughly rinsed
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add 1 cup of ice and 1 cup of water to a medium bowl. Fill a large pot with about 1 inch of water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, add the spinach leaves and cover. After a minute, remove the lid, stir the spinach and replace the lid. Cook until the spinach is bright green and wilted, then strain the spinach from the water or remove it with tongs. Move the spinach to the ice water bath to arrest the cooking and preserve color. Once the spinach is fully cooled, strain out the water and remove any remaining pieces of ice.
- Add the butter to a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes (you want to cook the flour but not brown it). Slowly pour in the milk while stirring constantly, then cook, stirring often until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in the nutmeg and Gruyère cheese. When the cheese has melted, turn off the heat and stir in the cooked and cooled spinach.
- Either bake the gratin in the same skillet or pour it into a medium-sized baking dish. Top it with the Parmesan and bake it until it is bubbling and just beginning to turn golden, for about 20 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.