Baby Spinach Salad with Pancetta and Onions


I was thrilled to find these baby spinach leaves at S&R last week. At just PHP39 a bag, with enough greens for two very generous salads, I thought it was a great deal. I believe these are hydroponically raised, and while they look great, they do seem a bit bland. But never mind, variety in my salad intake is sought after and I knew exactly what I wanted to make for lunch that day… Just wash the spinach and stick them in a spinner to dry the leaves off. Place a generous amount of spinach in an individual salad bowl and chill for about 15-30 minutes in the fridge.


Next, heat up a small non-stick pan and fry up some very thinly sliced pancetta. If you don’t have pancetta, good bacon (not overly sweet) works too. Then add some sliced red onions and saute for a minute or two, add some balsamic vinegar and ten second later pour this hot, fatty, pungent mixture/topping onto the salad greens. Add a touch of olive oil if necessary. Season with salt and cracked black pepper. It is so simple to make, yet incredibly delicious and, um, reasonably healthy. I have another spinach salad recipe, here.


The robust but not bitter spinach leaves are the perfect foil for the salty and caramelized pancetta, with the silky onions infused with pork fat and the balsamic vinegar. This could be a meal by itself with a piece of good bread, but I like it as a prelude to a hearty pasta main course instead… :)


28 Responses

  1. Spinach salad with pancetta or crumbled bacon is a match made in heaven. They compliment each other. Avocado is also a good addition to this salad.

  2. Whoa…talk about timing, MM,,,this post on baby spinach salad is just what we need ! It is finally summer here (only for 2 days though according to the weatherman!)…What a bargain price for those baby spinach!…should have gotten more! This is sooo good just drizzled with HONEY-GARLIC dressing..I’m sure every household have the ingredients on hand in their pantry…Try this dressing ladies and guys! I gave the recipe of this dressing to a dear friend of mine after she tasted it at home. She bottles it EVERY Christmas and gives it away as her Christmas presents to her friends.

    I usually QUADRUPLE the recipe and keep it in the fridge. It only lasts a whole week for us.

    Since I add strained pureed frozen raspberries, I call it Raspberry-Honey Vinaigrette..
    In a blender or food processor, put 2 cloves peeled garlic, 1/3 cup cider or white wine vinegar, 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp. canola oil, salt and pepper to taste, 1 tbsp. honey, 1 tsp. djon mustard, 2 to 3 tbsp. pureed raspberries (strained to remove seeds)…YOU MIGHT WANT TO PLAY AROUND WITH THE AMT. of Raspberries…you just want to achieve a pinkish hue!

    Another mainstay salad dressing in our household that would go really well with spinach is my Ginger-Sesame dressing…this is my OWN formula. This one I bottle and give away as Christmas presents….I have taken the guesswork out for you ladies and gents!!!…It yields about 2 cups…1/2 cup light toyo, 1/2 cup canola oil, 1/4 cup RICE WINE VINEGAR, 1/4 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup HONEY, 1 heaping tablespoon pureed garlic (or a bit more if you like it garlicky), 1 tbsp. pureed fresh ginger, some chili flakes or 1 to 2 tsp. chili oil (NO TABASCO, please!)… Use this as a marinade for KOREAN Kalbi Ribs (just add a little bit of GRATED ASIAN PEAR!!)…or Thai NOoodle Salad…made with pan fried instant egg noodle, LOOOOOTS of BABY SPINACH of course, grilled vegetables like eggplant, peppers, asparagus carrots, etc., and smoked chicken!!! This salad is best served warm or at room temp.!!!!

  3. I prefer the flat-leafed baby spinach variety because it has less of the iron or bitter aftertaste. A friend taught me to sprinkle some salt over the spinach leaves and mix it and let is stand for 15-12 minutes before using in a salad. That seems to lessen the aftertaste.

  4. this is just superb!. . .spinach plus fried pancetta and sauteed onions. . .and balsamic viniagrette. . . if only my flat mates would agree this is enough for a meal, i know they wouldn’t appreaciate it, they still prefer the rice plus ulam kind hehehe. . .

  5. AAAAAHHHHH……after your heavenly XO recipe, a perfect salad to even out all the excess calories!!! hehehehe

  6. Try adding thin slices of watermelon, it’s refreshing and light.I suggest to slice the pancetta in bite sizes so it looks appetizing.

  7. I love baby spinach leaves for salad! They’re a welcome change after the usual lettuce-based salads. I mix my baby spinach leaves with feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, and if I have them, strips of left over herb-roasted chicken, with a spoonful of soy mayo. Yum!

  8. MM, winner to! At first glance I thought it was grilled squid until I read the title hehehe.

    Anticipating your pasta!!

  9. Sorry guys, the photos must be at a bad angle or something. The pancetta is sliced very thinly, in disks. That is how pancetta is traditionally sliced as it comes in the form of a thick log, the belly fat rolled up. You can buy it thicker and slice it in chunks, but I personally prefer it this way, as it crisps up wonderfully in no time at all in a hot pan. I also like the way it looks whole, so guests KNOW it is pancetta, not packaged processed bacon. :) Bettyq, thanks for those dressing tips!

  10. nice mixing up of spinach and pancetta..i never know that baby spinach are already available in manila..where do you usually buy MM??

  11. dhanggit, several groceries seem to carry it. Rustan’s seems to bring in the imported packages, while S&R Price Club is supplied by a local grower. They are very reasonably priced when you can find them…

  12. betty q., your dressing sounds perfect. I don’t write down my recipes when i cook and go my the “tanchometer” and this really takes out the guesswork. I also empathize with the cooking/baking for the love of it. I will just dream of your XO sauce. =) Keep on cooking!

  13. Tried a similar recipe by Rachel Ray, the difference is she sauteed the baby spinach a bit. Partnered it with a Ravioli in brown butter and balsamic.

  14. Is baby spinach the same as the Thai or Vietnamese spinach? I think I have a plant which I got from the weekend market and the seller said it was Thai spinach but I’m not sure if I can use it for salads. Leaves are more robust than spinach leaves, as MM mentioned. We’ve tried cooking them with monggo guisado.

  15. I think what you have MarketFan is a relative of spinach called Malabar spinach…it is not a true spinach …is it vining?…It is mostly used in soups, stews and stir fries. If you would like to plant spinach…here’s what I would do. You can grow them in containers if you don’t have room in your garden….like half an oak barrel. Just scatter the seeds, cover lightly with sieved compost and water. It germinates really fast. It’s usually planted in the spring so it doesn’t bolt as fast. As soon as it’s about 5 to 6 inches high, cut them with scissors at the base. DO NOT PULL THE ENTIRE PLANT. In two weeks you can harvest another batch of baby spinach. It’s what I call “cut and Grow”. When the weather gets a bit warmer, let it grow for seeds for next year!!!…If you’re interested in growing your own spinach and you don’t have access to seeds, send me an…I shall mail you as many seed packets as you want. ..Do you prefer the flat leaf or the curly ones?

  16. BETTY Q…

    Thank you for a delicious sounding recipe. What is a good sub for raspberries if I can’t find it?


  17. Quillene…Where are you? If you don’t have access to frozen raspberries, do you have access to raspberry vinegar or strawberry vinegar? If you still don’t…but don’t mind having an orange hue instead of pinkish hue in the salad dressing, then you can use sweet paprika instead….start with just 1/2 tsp. adding more if you want…as my mom said” it is best to err on the side of less than more…you can always add more if need be!”…Now, if you are going to use raspberry vinegar, use that instead of the cider or white wine vinegar…Another option would be to use roasted red peppers…Roast the red peppers over an open flame or under the broiler till charred…cool and remove skins…puree some and add a bit of pureed roasted red peppers just till you get pink hue…using beet juice would make it like magenta…

  18. great timing mm… i was just getting bored with my usual salads. will try this out. baby spinach is something i usually have in the ref.

  19. bettyq, the honey-garlic dressing sounds like a dressing i like to make at home. it also works well with lemon juice instead of the white wine or cider vinegar. never thought to add raspberries or paprika though. will try it out :-) thanks for the tip!

  20. Quillene and Currystrumpet: I know that KASUBHA is readily accessible back home. I would use that in place of paprika if you want…just give it a light roast …dry heat…squish them before adding to your dressing…will give it an orangey-yellowish hue which I think is pretty as well…Besides, when your friends see the strands…they will say “whoa…it has SAFFRON ? in it!!!”

  21. Hi Betty!

    Am a newbie in the kitchen here in Manila. Thanks for the tip on the cider and kasubha. Weekends are my “training days” and celebrate little itsy-bitsy successes in the kitchen with my lolas and mom’s recipes. Thanks to this WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL blog and the little community that meet here, there have been much added to what I now know….

    God bless both you and MM and the other commenters here!

  22. betty q., my mom loved your ginger-soy dressing. =) I don’t have access to raspberries but i do a similar dressing using mangoes instead. Since it’s already sweet, i just lighten up on the honey and add chopped mint for a refreshing aspect. Lovely with roasted chicken salad.

  23. Hi Zena…I am glad your mom liked the ginger-sesame one. Tell her it is best to use it the next day so flavours mellow and gets a bit thickened as well…not as runny as when freshly made…Did she try the Thai Noodle Salad?…that it so yummy!!!…Thanks for the mango tip…Mangoes from Mexico are starting to be available now…I will surely try that one!!!

  24. hi betty q., i did notice that it was thicker the next day and the garlic not as sharp. As for the noodle salad, I just cooked some canton and added the dressing and pumped up the chili. Loved it plain with scrambled egg strips. =)

  25. There is a classic simple spinach recipe popular in the mediterranean, enjoyed in Spain, France and Italy (there is even a Pizza version of this in Nice.
    A formal recipe:
    1 kg of spinach leaves, 4 tablespoons of raisins,to be soaked in warm water, 3 tablespoons of pine nuts – to be gently fried in oil or butter, 1 onion finey chopped, which is fried to goledn then 2 garlic cloves finely chopped added,, with the plumped raisins and toasted pine nuts. Finally the spinach leaves are added until they wilt, mix and serve.
    Simple but very effective.



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