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Stop Throwing Away The Best Part Of Spinach

Bucatini With Spinach Stems. Credit: Clifford A. Wright

Bucatini with spinach stems. Credit: Clifford A. Wright

They say we live in a disposable society and it’s true. We throw away so much. That is more than evident when it comes to food. I see it all the time in the supermarkets with celery heads without their tops or at the farmers markets when customers ask the vendor to discard the turnip tops.

I’ve noticed the same thing with stems. I mean stems and stalks as one finds on Swiss chard or spinach. I’ll bet you throw away those stems after you wash the spinach or maybe you’re even buying bags of baby spinach leaves. But those stems are food and good food at that. You’re probably stymied by what to do with them because they don’t really fit and aren’t really usable in so many recipes calling for spinach.

Next time you find yourself snipping off those spinach stems, don’t throw them out. Give this ridiculously simple recipe a try and you’ll kick yourself for all those years you’ve tossed them into the garbage.

Not only is this an easy dish, it’s made easier still by the fact that you can cook the pasta and stems together in the same pot at the same time and then you dress only with a little olive oil and black pepper. Does it need more? Not really, although you can add stuff if you want, such as tomatoes or cooked shrimp. I recommend keeping it simple, but I offer a simple variation too.

Bucatini is a thick spaghetti with a hole in it, the thinnest member of the tubular macaroni family. It has a chewy texture when cooked al dente and a shape that matches the stems.


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Spinach stems. Credit: Clifford A. Wright

Bucatini With Spinach Stems

Serves 2 to 3


Stems from 2 pounds spinach

½ pound bucatini

Extra virgin olive oil to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, salt abundantly, then add the spinach stems.

2. After 1 minute, add the bucatini and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente.

3. Drain without rinsing and transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper and serve hot.

Variation: While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over low heat with a large finely chopped garlic clove, 2 crumbled whole dried red chilies with their seeds removed and 2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram leaves. When the pasta is cooked and drained, transfer it to the pan and cook, tossing, for 2 minutes then serve.

Top photo: Bucatini With Spinach Stems. Credit: Clifford A. Wright

Zester Daily contributor Clifford A. Wright won the James Beard/KitchenAid Cookbook of the Year Award and the James Beard Award for the Best Writing on Food in 2000 for "A Mediterranean Feast." His latest book is "One-Pot Wonders" (Wiley).

  • Dorothy Jones 10·8·17

    I couldn’t believe this recipe would taste so good, so easy to make,what a perfect way to use spinich stalks. Good also for my daughter who is a vegetarian. Will make it every time I have spinich stalks thank you 10 out of 10