If you order spinach as a side dish in Italy, it is called simply spinaci and this is the way it is generally done. It is quickly sauteed with just some olive oil and garlic. The only thing I add is a dash of red pepper flakes. It is perfect served right away. If you need to make it ahead of time, just put the sauteed spinach in a ceramic baking dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs to be reheated in the oven, thus turning it into a Spinach Gratin.
Here's a photo from the cooking class. During the break, my assistant Craig gave me a hand with one of the batches of spinach. As each batch was finished it went into the white ceramic baking dish that you can just barely see in the photo behind the skillet.
Spinaci (Spinach Gratin)
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
A dash of red pepper flakes
4 12-ounce bags of spinach
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A handful of dry bread crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Put a large skillet over a medium flame and add some olive oil. Add the half of the garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes and saute just until the garlic sizzles. Do not let the garlic brown.
3. In batches, add as much spinach as you can fit into the pan. Add salt and stir until the spinach is wilted. Serve immediately or set aside each batch of spinach in a ceramic baking dish. Then repeat with another batch of spinach, adding more olive oil, garlic and red pepper, salt and pepper to the pan as needed.
4. Spread the spinach evenly in the ceramic baking dish and top with just a sprinkle of bread crumbs. Drizzle with a little more olive oil. At this point it can be made an hour ahead of time and can sit at room temperature until baking. If you’re holding it longer than an hour (it can be done at most 24 hours ahead), put it in the refrigerator and bring back to room temperature before baking.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes or until it is heated through. Serve hot.