There is truly no simpler side than sauteed spinach with garlic. No chopping of the spinach or garlic allows you to throw this together in about 15 minutes. Perfect served with grilled or roasted meat, fish, or even pasta, this garlicky green side never disappoints!
It's also a favorite to serve with fish, like pan seared swordfish with olives and capers.
I'll often lay a bed of garlic sauteed spinach on the plate, and lay the fish directly on top of it.
One of my favorite Italian dishes to serve with sauteed spinach is Chicken Valdostana, which is made with thinly sliced, pan-seared chicken cutlets, prosciutto, and fontina cheese in a white wine sauce.
It's also perfect to add to New York-style white pizza. Yum!
The spinach itself is mild in flavor so for those who don't enjoy stronger flavored greens, like broccoli rabe, this is the perfect alternative.
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- In a large pan begin by sauteeing 10 garlic cloves over medium-low heat in a ¼ cup of olive oil. Want less or more garlic? Go for it! I like to make this garlic spinach just like you'd get it at a family-style Italian restaurant like La Parma or Carmines here in New York.
- Get the cloves golden on both sides then remove and place them into a bowl and set aside to use later. Note: Cooking the garlic like this will help to ensure you wind up with garlic-infused olive oil, without any risk of burning the garlic. The garlic is great served with the meal for both presentation and for anyone who might like to eat the whole cloves. They are soft and delicious after turning golden in the olive oil.
- To the same pan add a ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. If you don't like spice, omit the flakes. If you enjoy spice, add as much as you like.
- After 30 seconds add all the spinach. Give it a stir with tongs to coat the spinach with the garlic-infused olive oil.
- Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid.
- After 2-3 minutes remove the cover and toss the wilted spinach with tongs.
- Season with a good amount of kosher salt. Taste test the spinach and add more if required.
- Plate the garlic-sauteed spinach and drizzle a couple of tablespoons of your best extra virgin olive on top. Serve the garlic cloves on the side for a beautiful presentation. Note: If there is too much liquid in the pan, just drain it a bit by placing the cover on top almost cracked and pouring it out in the sink. After this, plate the spinach, and drizzle more extra virgin olive oil all over the spinach to get it just right!
- Use fresh spinach - Frozen spinach is often chopped up into small pieces and loaded with thick stems. Save the frozen spinach for other dishes, but for garlic-sauteed spinach, fresh is way better!
- Use baby spinach - I strongly recommend using baby spinach for this recipe. Its texture is softer, and it is usually far easier to clean. If you must use regular spinach, remove the tough stems and clean well with a salad spinner.
- Remove excess water - Try your best to remove excess water from the dish prior to serving with a salad spinner. But spinach is mostly water, so when it cooks down, you're often left with a lot of liquid in the pan. You can remove it by fitting a lid on the pan and with a slight crack and dumping it into the sink to drain a bit.
- Use whole garlic cloves - I strongly recommend keeping the garlic cloves whole for this dish. It allows you to easily infuse the olive oil with garlic and easily remove them without the risk of burning. Plus serving them on the side, or mixed in with the spinach adds another textural element to the dish. My family loves eating the garlic cloves whole too!
More tasty green sides
In addition to the broccoli rabe, I mentioned above, we think you'll also love these green sides.
- Roasted baby broccoli - With seasoned breadcrumbs and toasted pine nuts.
- Escarole and beans - Garlicky greens and beans!
- Italian broccoli - Sauteed simply with garlic and oil.
- Green beans with tomato sauce - Old school style, just like nonnas!
More spinach recipes
If you love spinach and can't get enough, try these favorites of ours.
- Italian wedding soup - With turkey meatballs and baby spinach.
- Spinach Lasagna rolls - With a creamy bechamel sauce.
- Stuffed shells - With ricotta and spinach.
- Zucchini rollatini - Thin slices of zucchini rolled around a creamy spinach ricotta stuffing.
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- 1 pound baby spinach washed and well drained
- 10 cloves garlic whole cloves for easy removal
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper optional, to taste
- ⅜ cup extra virgin olive oil divided
- salt to taste
- Saute garlic cloves in a ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Once the cloves turn golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- To the same pan add the crushed red pepper flakes, then the spinach. Mix the spinach around with tongs then cover.
- After 1-2 minutes the spinach will have wilted. Remove the lid and turn off the heat. Season with salt to taste.
- Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on the spinach before serving. Serve with the sauteed whole garlic cloves for anyone who might want them. Enjoy!
- Sodium levels reflect the addition of 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.
- Add salt to taste, but keep in mind that green veggies taste way better with a good amount of salt!
- Feel free to drain any excess water before plating then drizzle more extra virgin olive oil top.
- The garlic cloves that were used to flavor the olive oil can be served with the spinach and eaten whole, or they can be discarded.
- Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the microwave.