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Broiled Parmesan Spinach

Written by Andrea Lynn

I saved my family’s Thanksgiving. Well, not quite, but that’s how the story worked out in my mind.

My mom had lost a passed-down recipe for a relative’s broccoli casserole. You know the kind—chock-full of cheddar cheese, mayo, and crumbled crackers that’s a staple on many Southern tables.

As soon as my mom named the recipe, I remembered I had a hard copy in my green binder, a relic that I only touch when dusting off my bookshelf (which isn’t often, trust me).

broiled parmesan spinach and chicken cutlets
Photo: Casey Barber

This now-neglected binder crammed full of newspaper clippings and printouts was once my culinary pride and joy.

As I rummaged through the papers searching for the broccoli casserole, I found all sorts of treasures, like a stash of recipes from cooking classes at Cook’s Warehouse in Atlanta when I was wavering over whether or not I should ditch my career to cook professionally.

recipes from a binder

Faxes of family recipes were sent by my mom, who would send them to me at work—much to my chagrin, quite honestly—after she got her first fax machine.

I would try to scoop them up from the office fax machine before anyone else could discover them.

There’s a hot pink napkin where I scrawled a shrimp and grits recipe, where I had asked a chef at some restaurant (I neglected to write that part down) to indulge his secrets. And my mom’s pancake recipe that delivers the fluffiest flapjacks a fork has ever met.

I also found the broiled Parmesan spinach of my childhood.

broiled parmesan spinach with garlic
Photo: Casey Barber

Back before washed spinach in a bag was invented, my mom would spend hours washing the dirt off pounds of greens.

The cooked pile of wilted spinach would never represent the hours of work involved, which is why the dish only showed up on special occasions—mainly Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The cooked spinach would be packed onto baking sheets and drizzled with a mix of olive oil, butter, garlic, and cayenne pepper before it slid under the broiler with a dusting of Parmesan.

It was the kick of cayenne combined with the nuttiness of crisped Parmesan in the mix of spinach that made the dish one of a kind.

broiled parmesan spinach with garlic
Photo: Casey Barber

When I made the spinach recently, it wasn’t just the final product but the nostalgia of the printed recipe that called to me.

The half sheet of paper had a grease thumbprint smack in the middle of the page, a grocery list on the top, and a reminder to email my book club.

My cursive writing—which would place last in any penmanship contest—was a struggle to decipher. But there was fun in the challenge.

While my mom got her requested broccoli casserole, the broiled Parmesan spinach gave me a walk down recipe remembrance lane.

Why had I abandoned my green binder for a computer full of bookmarks, Evernote clips, and Gmail tags?

broiled parmesan spinach and chicken cutlets

I can’t completely relinquish the digital trappings of my recipe filing system, but I can make more of an effort to have physical copies of recipes.

Ripping pages out of newspapers and magazines instead of clicking on a bookmark tab. Scrawling recipe improvements on a piece of paper rather than relying on my brain to remember. Printing an online recipe to file away rather than reading it off my iPhone as I cook.

Because these are the things you can look back on, pass on to loved ones, and be reminded of treasuring.

When my mom makes this for the holidays, she triples the recipe. While two pounds of spinach sounds like a lot, it shrinks considerably after blanching. You’ve been warned.

broiled parmesan spinach with garlic

Broiled Parmesan Spinach with Cayenne and Garlic

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

A family recipe for broiled Parmesan spinach with cayenne, garlic, and butter is better than a steakhouse side dish.


  • 2 pounds spinach, well-washed and trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, as needed


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Add the spinach (making sure to submerge all of it), and cook for 30 seconds until wilted.
  3. Remove from heat and drain the spinach in a colander.
  4. Make sure spinach is as dry as you can get it. (What works for me is to run cold water over the spinach to cool it, and then use my hands to press the spinach up against the colander to release water from it.)
  5. Spread the cooked spinach onto a baking sheet into one layer.
  6. Preheat the broiler.
  7. In a skillet over medium heat, warm the butter and oil until the butter melts.
  8. Add the garlic, salt and cayenne. Stirring constantly, cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute until garlic is golden. Remove from heat.
  9. Drizzle the butter mixture over all the spinach, and then top with Parmesan.
  10. Place in the broiler, and cook 1 to 2 minutes until Parmesan cheese is very golden (but not burnt!).
  11. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 226Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 515mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 6gSugar: 1gProtein: 7g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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  1. I have FIVE binders and I still use them. There’s just way too much in there to convert it to digital. And I inherited my grandmother’s notebooks too.

  2. I am fixing to go upstairs and pull out my recipe folders; never have made the big-girl leap to a binder, that’s the ticket! Big fat manila folders with astute names like “Recipes” to I.D. them, and there I will find White Mice cookies written in pencil by yours truly around age 10, with candy canes and Christmas trees, Mother’s Cherry Winks clipped from an cornflakes advertisement in Good Housekeeping or Redbook from the 1960’s, and many more without holiday connections. Some stained, some pristeen, all frosted with something the computer screen cannot process. Thanks for this post and that spinach! Printing out now for folder, no, binder.

  3. Brette — I want to hear about what kind of treasures are in your grandmother’s notebooks!

    Nancie — Folders are probably much easier. I don’t know when and where I got a crazy idea that i needed to punch holes into each of the recipes to put into the binder. Maybe I’ll switch to folders too? But I’m certainly going to be printing out recipes much more.
    — Andrea

  4. Except for the Cayenne pepper, the spinich recipe is very Italian. We would use lots of black pepper.

  5. I think this looks incredibly delicious. Thanks for the reminder to pull out the family binder more often. I’m only just compiling ours, from recipes inherited when my grandmother passed. I haven’t cooked a whole lot out of it yet, but I need to focus on that.

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