It tastes like Italy in a dish. I promise.
I had a bag of semolina flour on hand and wondered what else to do with it other than make fresh pasta.
I found the most delicious answer.
Warm and bubbly, thick and richly flavored, every spoonful of this spinach gratin is a complete pleasure. As it bakes, the mixture of semolina flour rises in the dish, puffing up and browning slightly at the edges, all the while completely enveloping the cheese, spinach, and tomatoes.
Here is a secret: those browned edges and the lovely toasty base that forms at the bottom of the baking dish are a serious treat. I may have scraped them all out of the pan and eaten them myself. I simply could not help it.
I had some lovely orange and yellow tomatoes which I sliced thinly and placed on top. They worked wonderfully and added color and flavor. Although the filling calls for spinach, it is fair to say that this gratin is so user-friendly that it would be a delicious vehicle for any ingredients you may have on hand. Some that would likely work well are kale, broccoli raab, and diced Yukon Gold or sweet potatoes. I may even venture to say that meat has a place in this gratin if you wanted to include some browned sweet sausage or pancetta. It's a wonderful recipe for creativity, and you can experiment with what to include, even changing the cheeses you use. Really, though, it is fabulous as a vegetarian dish that is filling and satisfying on its own.
On a final note, this gratin is very simple to make, inexpensive, and would be perfect to serve to a large group at a dinner or holiday. As I discovered, the leftovers of are delicious for breakfast and lunch: testament to its truly versatile combination of flavors. On a final note, although I made this as a main course, it would certainly serve well as a side for a super-cozy comfort meal...perhaps paired with a nice lamb shank (...yum. That may be for next time!)
Semolina and Spinach Gratin: serves 6
1 Spanish Onion, diced
2 cups milk (preferably 2%)
2 cups water
2 tablespoons Earth Balance or regular butter
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup semolina flour
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup grated Monte Veronese cheese, or other semi-soft Italian cheese
3 large eggs (whisk in 1 at a time)
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Monte Veronese cheese
Thinly sliced tomatoes
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Butter 11x7x2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
In large saucepan, saute onions in 1 T butter until golden brown. Add and bring to a boil milk, water, butter, and salt. Reduce heat to medium. Gradually whisk in semolina flour, then whisk until mixture is thick and smooth, from 1-5 minutes. Whisk in spinach, 1/2 cup cheese, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish; smooth top. Line the top with the sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with 1/3 cup grated cheese.
Bake gratin until puffed and golden, about 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.