Fight the late winter blues with this healthy, delicious spinach recipe

"Home with the Lost Italian" columnist Sarah Nasello says a simple combination of ingredients adds up to a perfect side dish.

Fight back the late winter blues and boost your energy with Sarah's Sauteed Spinach with Lemon and Garlic.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum
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FARGO — If our never-ending winter has left you feeling crabby and bereft of energy, this Sauteed Spinach with Lemon and Garlic may be just what you need to beat back the freakishly gigantic, late-April snowflakes with vim and vigor. Honestly, at this point I am determined to use every weapon in my arsenal to fight the nasty weather gods who seem intent on delaying the full arrival of springtime, here and throughout the Upper Midwest.

It may seem odd to follow last week’s Banana Coconut Cream Pie with a recipe for sauteed spinach, but the two can work in tandem, if you let them. A tad schizophrenic, I confess — but then, so is the weather. Fight fire with fire, I always say.

A large amount of fresh spinach leaves are tossed in extra-virgin olive oil sauteed with garlic and lemon zest. The leaves will reduce in volume as they cook.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Spinach may not seem the obvious choice, but it is my all-time favorite leafy green for good reason. Readily available in our local markets, fresh spinach can be enjoyed either cooked, as featured here today, or raw in salads and sandwiches. Its neutral flavor and smooth texture make it more versatile than kale and arugula, and it is loaded with enough nutrition to make a sailor blush (you knew there had to be a Popeye reference, right?).

Each leaf of fresh spinach boasts a bounty of vital nutrients, including iron, vitamins E, K and C, calcium, magnesium and folate that can help boost energy and immunity, promote a healthy heart and eyes, aid in digestion and decrease inflammation.

Lemon zest, crushed red pepper flakes and very thinly sliced garlic add great flavor and depth to this healthy side dish.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

This dish is quick and easy to prepare, requiring just seven basic ingredients and only 10 to 12 minutes to make, from start to finish. All you will need is an 8-ounce bag of fresh spinach, one lemon, two garlic cloves, extra-virgin olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper — and a large frying pan. Because there are so few ingredients, each item contributes to the overall flavor of the dish, so even though the spinach will be sauteed, I use the best extra-virgin olive oil I have.


Instead of mincing or pressing the garlic cloves, I slice them as thin as possible to ensure that the dish is infused with the essence of garlic without it being the dominant flavor. The sliced garlic mellows as it cooks, and a healthy dose of lemon zest adds a touch of brightness that pulls all the flavors together. The measurements in my recipe can be adjusted according to your taste, and the amount of crushed red pepper flakes can be increased from mild (as per my measurement) to hot.

The sliced garlic, lemon zest and crushed red pepper flakes are sauteed in good extra-virgin olive oil until sizzling and fragrant.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

The garlic, lemon zest and red pepper flakes are sauteed in hot oil until fragrant but not browned, which takes only about 90 seconds. The fresh spinach leaves are added and tossed with the garlic-oil mixture until evenly coated, and then cooked until bright green and wilted (and greatly reduced in volume), which takes only about three to four minutes.

The spinach will wilt and reduce significantly in size as it cooks in the garlic-lemon oil.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

I serve this side dish with steak, fish, chicken and pork dishes, or even atop toasted bread for a quick snack. This Sauteed Spinach with Lemon and Garlic is easy to make, healthy and delicious, and it's the perfect side dish, no matter the season — which, it seems, is always winter.

Sarah's Sauteed Spinach with Lemon and Garlic is great as a side dish or a snack, atop toasted bread.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Sauteed Spinach with Lemon and Garlic

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Serves: 4 to 6

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Zest of 1 medium lemon (1 heaping tablespoon)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 ounces fresh spinach leaves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, reduce heat to medium-low and add the sliced garlic, lemon zest and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook until sizzling and fragrant, stirring often, about 90 seconds.

Add all of the spinach and use tongs to toss with the garlic-lemon oil, until the leaves are evenly coated. Add the salt and pepper and increase heat to medium. Cook, tossing frequently, until the spinach is bright green and mostly wilted, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and taste to adjust seasoning as desired. Serve immediately.


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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at

Related Topics: FOODRECIPES
“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at
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