A Perfect Trio: Penne, Spinach, and Ricotta

Stewart, Tabori & Chang

The winter season is a great time to eat a hearty bowl of filled pasta, and if you have kids, making the pasta is also a really fun indoor activity for them. Our kids love preparing and rolling the dough—it's better for them than Play-Doh, we say. What could be more fun than mixing the ingredients together in a bowl with your hands?

One of Giuliano's favorite pasta dishes is tortelloni filled with Swiss chard and ricotta. His fondness for the dish was evident from the time he was a small boy: After polishing off a generous portion, Giuliano proceeded to collapse on the table, terrifying his grandmother, who promptly called the doctor. In those days, and in the Italian seaside village of Cesenatico, the doctor still made house calls. After examining the child, the doctor pronounced Giuliano "happy and asleep."

When we make filled pasta together, we often end up with more filling than we have pasta. One time, we decided to make the extra filling into a pasta sauce. It worked so well that Giuliano adapted the filling to make a spinach and ricotta sauce for penne, one that's become a family favorite and is perfect for a flavorful sauce without much effort.