Penne rigate with fresh wilted spinach and garlic is taped on my brain like a permanent memo for those nights when dinner brain cells have no interest in making themselves present. Noodles, spinach, garlic, toss. For nights of questionable but still hopeful performance abllity, and a need for a certain je nais se qua, it is easy enough to add seared sausage or toasted fresh bread crumbs, pepperoncino, or black olives, or even shavings of Pecorino to the mix to make you feel like it’s worth getting dressed to come to the table. The other night I had the no show of brain cells and a guest. I had none of the above extras, and so I panicked. Spinach, garlic and noodle for a guest? That’s like wearing curlers and a hair net to the table. And then I remembered my potatoes! Potatoes are a miracle worker; they are the false eyelashes of my menu repertoire. I added a whole, uncut clove of garlic to the pan with olive oil and a sprig of rosemary. I diced up the potatoes finely, and threw those in with salt over a medium/high heat until they were golden brown and cooked through. Held them to the side and then a little more olive oil in the pan, three big cloves of minced garlic, a tablespoon of finely chopped parsley, (let this go on it’s own until the garlic begins to get golden) a few flakes of red pepper (or a whole and uncut pepperoncino) and finely a bag of baby spinach leaves with salt. This only needs to cook for about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, in the pasta pot, loads of salted boiling water, and cook the (9 ounces) of pasta until al dente, draining well, saving a few spoonfuls of cooking water on the side. Combine the pasta with the spinach, the potatoes, grated parmesan or pecorino a drizzle of your best olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and if you need it, a spoonful of the reserved water. Taste. Be happy. This is really good with Copola’s red merlot.