Baked spinach mornay is made with fresh spinach, heavy cream, Fontina cheese, onion, garlic, and nutmeg. It’s cold-weather comfort for holidays and all of winter. Sure beats salad.
This eminently entertaining-worthy side is essentially potato gratin, save for the fact that the delicately nutty, cheesy white sauce flecked with nutmeg is enveloping gently wilted spinach leaves and not sliced spuds. Sure beats salad. –Renee Schettler Rossi
Baked Spinach Mornay
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 7 ounces fontina cheese cubed or grated
- 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 2 pounds fresh spinach leaves rinsed, patted completely dry, and coarsely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it begins to sizzle. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and cook, stirring constantly, until a thick paste forms, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and, whisking constantly, slowly, slowly pour in the milk. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth, lump-free, and has thickened somewhat, which should probably take a few minutes. Add the cheese and stir until it’s completely melted and melded into the sauce. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Melt the remaining butter in a wok or large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook until the onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes more. Add the spinach, cover the wok or pot with a lid, and cook, uncovering and stirring often, until the spinach has wilted. (The amount of time this will take depends on the size of your pan, the precise heat of your burner, and whether you’re using delicate baby spinach or sturdy mature spinach.)
- Transfer the sautéed spinach mixture to a colander or strainer lined with paper towels and firmly press to remove any excess liquid, being careful not to lose the onion and garlic with the liquid. Place the spinach mixture in an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish or gratin dish, pour in the reserved cheese sauce, and stir to combine. Sprinkle with the nutmeg and bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbling. Serve at once, while still hot.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This baked spinach Mornay has just become one of my go-tos for quick, easy, flavorful, versatile dishes. This is a great way to serve spinach to those who think they don’t really like it. The strong green-y flavor that spinach dishes sometimes have is well balanced by the rich cheese and the mild onion flavors. Serve on toasted bread, or even better, garlic toast, for a great appetizer.
I used a Mayan Sweet for the onion in the recipe and slightly caramelized it for the extra sweetness. This increased the time for that step to about 10 minutes, but it was worth it.
I can’t even stop thinking about all the ways to combine this into a chicken dish, but as this is meant to be vegetarian, I won’t go there now. Variations I’ll try in the future:
Adding chopped canned artichokes;
Adding grated Parmesan or Asiago;
Adding 1/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper;
Serving it with eggs, Florentine-style, since the mornay sauce is already there;
Maybe all of the above at once…
Serving in spooned over a baked potato;
Substituting kale for the spinach.
After the big meal on Thanksgiving Day and leftovers on Friday, we decided we needed a change in the menu. We had a couple of bottles of white wine that we were anxious to try and decided that rather than a full meal, we would do an appetizer. The first idea was some type of hot artichoke dip, but then I remembered this recipe.
I used baby spinach, a combination of white and yellow onions, and since we were a little short on the whole milk, I added some half-and-half to make the requisite 3 cups. The fontina cheese is perfect for this dish, adding an extra creaminess that some other cheeses would not.
Along with the wine, toasted artisan bread, and a salad of mixed lettuce drizzled with olive oil, this made the perfect Saturday night supper. Will try this again as a brunch dish.
This baked spinach Mornay is a simple and a tad different way to serve spinach. It’s the perfect side dish for a nice roast beef or steak.
I used baby spinach. The one thing I did notice is that I had to add 1 tablespoon more butter to fry the onion and garlic, as the amount written down was not enough. It’s essential to remove the excess liquid from the spinach, which I did, or the final dish would have been too liquidy.
Originally published October 29, 2018