Can Tomatoes and Spinach Be Cooked Together?

Published Categorized as Cooking Tips
africa-studio.com (Olga Yastremska and Leonid Yastremskiy)

You might not think so, but give it a chance. Here’s why these two staple ingredients go surprisingly well together when cooked.

Okay, so you came here wondering whether tomatoes and spinach—without a doubt, two pantry staples in every household—can be cooked together or not.

Maybe they’re two of your favorite foods, but you’ve never cooked them together and you want to know if they pair well. Or maybe you ran out of ingredients a day or two before grocery day, and, to avoid overspending, you want to make everything you can out of all you’ve got.

Well, it’s a good thing you stopped by. Because, whatever the reason that brought you here, we’ve got the answers you’re looking for. We’ve also rounded up some of our favorite recipes from the Internet for you to try.

Read on below.

Do Tomatoes and Spinach Go Well Together?

They go great together in salad. But do they go just as great together when cooked?

Why, yes, you can cook tomatoes and spinach together! Some of the most common ways to prepare tomatoes and spinach together are to sauté them in a pan, stew them in a pot, or roast them in the oven.

Before we get to the cooking technique, though, let’s spend a minute or two to talk about why these two pantry staples go this well together, especially when you’re prepared them properly.

There’s something about the combination of tart, spicy tomatoes and sweet, earthy spinach that makes these two ingredients a match made in heaven.

Sautéed or stewed, the spinach will soften and the tomatoes will cook down into a most delicious sauce. Roasted, the spinach will wilt and the tomatoes will take on a more potent aroma and a concentrated flavor.

You don’t need to do much to make them taste great, no matter how you prepare them—add a glug of extra virgin olive oil, throw in a diced bulb of garlic or two, and season generously with salt.

The keyword here is “season.” Both the tomatoes and spinach taste bland, and seasoning them with a generous amount of salt (or a bouillon cube) brings out their depth of aroma and richness of flavor in ways unavailable otherwise.

How to Cook Tomatoes and Spinach Together

In a recipe for creamy tomato and spinach pasta, Beth of Budget Bytes boils penne pasta in liberally salted water and prepares a creamy tomato sauce as the pasta cooks. The sauce consists of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and olive oil, along with herbs, spices, and cream cheese.

The pasta is mixed with the sauce when cooked. The fresh spinach is added at the end of cooking and gently stirred into the sauce until it has wilted.

Martha Stewart has a simple and delicious recipe for sautéed spinach and tomatoes on her website that was originally published in her magazine, Everyday Food.

She recommends heating oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, then browning shallows in it for a few minutes. When the shallots are golden brown, the recipe says, add the tomatoes and sauté until the skins are split open.

The spinach should be added at the end of cooking, and it ought to be cooked until soft and tender. The whole dish is seasoned with salt, black pepper, and served with Pecorino Romano cheese. The salty, gamey, sheep’s-milk cheese is what takes this dish to a whole new level.

Seasonings manufacturer McCormick recommends using Parmesan cheese in a recipe on its website, a slightly sweeter and nuttier alternative to Pecorino Romano made out of cow’s milk.

In a recipe for Turkish spinach with tomatoes and rice for The New York Times, Martha Shulman briefly steams spinach and sets it aside, then heats olive oil over medium heat in a skillet.

Shulman sautés garlic, then cooks down tomatoes, adding rice, paprika, cinnamon, salt, sugar, and stock, and reincorporating the steamed spinach. The result is a tangy, sweet, and salty stew that’s best served with yogurt.

The Key Takeaways

No matter how you choose to cook your tomatoes and spinach, garlic seems to be an indispensable ingredient. When cooking on the stove, the key is to sauté the garlic in hot oil for 20 to 30 seconds before adding in the tomatoes.

This is just enough time for the garlic to release its perfume, but not so much that it burns and tastes acrid. Use medium to medium-high heat, but never high heat for the same reasons; you don’t want the garlic to burn in the pan.

It takes longer for the tomatoes to split open than it does for the spinach to wilt, especially if the tomatoes are thick-skinned. Use cherry, grape, or cocktail tomatoes; if you only have heirloom tomatoes, dice them up.

Add the spinach to your dish 3-4 minutes before it’s done cooking. That way, the spinach will have enough time to wilt, and its flavors will meld together with those of the tomatoes and the sauce.

By Dim Nikov

Cooking for family and friends, one dish at a time. I love to make food that's delicious, nutritious, and easy to prepare.