Warm Spinach Salad With Pancetta + Goat Cheese

Warm Spinach Salad with Pancetta + Goat Cheese is a steakhouse inspired spinach salad that's great as a starter or main course! Simple to make, with a short ingredient list and still full of delicious flavors. 

A hand scooping up some spinach leaves with goat cheese, pancetta and red onions with a fork.

Hearty spinach leaves, crisp red onions, creamy goat cheese and meaty bits of pancetta tossed in a tangy, mustardy vinaigrette make up this fresh spinach salad. Serve it alongside a steak or with a crispy fried egg for a salad that's super satisfying and crazy delicious!

I use pancetta for this salad, which is an Italian, unsmoked bacon with lots of black pepper and tang. It adds meatiness and texture to the salad, not to mention a ton of flavor since the rendered fat is also used to make the dressing.

This salad makes a great starter or side, especially if serving a meaty dinner like roasted beef tenderloin, pork chops or roasted chicken, or can be served as an entree on its own.

If you love iconic steak house recipes like this, try my classic Lobster Bisque recipe, this succulent Dijon Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb, or these crazy delicious these Dauphinoise Potatoes.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Ready in less than 30 minutes.
  • Enjoy as a side salad or a complete meal on its own.
Ingredient Notes

Fresh baby spinach - The pre-washed baby spinach makes this recipe extra simple. Feel free to rough chop it if you like the pieces a little smaller. 

Red onion - If you don't like raw onions, slice them as thinly as possible, then soak them in cold water for 5-10 minutes. Drain, pat dry with a paper towel, then use in the recipe. You'll still get the crunch and flavor without the intense heat.

Goat cheese - Feta cheese will also work in this recipe. If you would like a stronger cheese flavor, blue cheese can be used. 

Pancetta - You can use American style smoked bacon here in place of the pancetta if you'd like. It will have a slightly different flavor, but will still be really good!

Shallot - If you don't have a shallot, you can use additional red onion, but you'll need to mince them extra fine. 

Dijon mustard - Don't skip the Dijon mustard. It adds a bit of creaminess and will help emulsify the dressing. 

White wine vinegar - Substitute red wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar if you want.

*Find the full ingredient list in the recipe card below!

Helpful Equipment

Sauté pan - You'll use a sauté pan to make the hot dressing for the salad. 

Large salad bowl - A bowl big enough to hold all the spinach. 

Two plates of warm spinach salad with goat cheese, pancetta and red onions.

How to Make warm spinach salad: Step by Step Instructions

Make the Warm Pancetta Dressing

  1. Place the pancetta in a medium sauté pan, then place over medium heat and toss around until it starts to give up its fat. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until the pancetta is browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. 
  2. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta (or bacon) to a paper towel to drain.
  3. Add the shallots to the pan and cook until they just start to soften, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper, then lower the heat and whisk until emulsified. Taste for seasoning and add more olive oil or vinegar if needed. 

Assemble the Salad

  1. Add spinach and red onions to a large bowl.
  2. Pour the warm dressing over the spinach and toss until evenly coated. Add the crumbled goat cheese and reserved pancetta or bacon bits, then toss until evenly distributed.
  3. Serve immediately with more freshly cracked black pepper on top.

Tips for Success

  • Depending on the pancetta or bacon you use, you may have more or less fat than what's needed for the vinaigrette. Taste the dressing and add more mustard and/or vinegar if you'd like it a bit sharper or drizzle in a little olive oil if you need to mellow it out.
  • Serve warm, or the rendered pancetta fat will solidify and change the texture.
  • To keep the salad warm, place your plates in a low oven for a few minutes before serving and make sure you serve the salad immediately after making.
A fork grabbing a bite of warm spinach salad with pancetta.

What to serve with warm spinach salad

This salad is great as a starter, a side or a meal on its own.

Add marinated grilled shrimp or a sliced chicken cutlet for added protein. It's also really good with a runny egg on top!

This spinach salad makes a great side or starter for these restaurant quality entrees:

Seafood Cioppino

Pan Seared Scallops

Mushroom Risotto

Red Wine Braised Short Rib

Cedar Planked Salmon

Baked Shrimp Scampi

FAQ

How to store this salad?

Since this salad is made with a warm vinaigrette from pancetta or bacon grease, it doesn't save well. But if you would like to prep everything ahead, you can make the dressing and store separately in an airtight container, like a small Mason jar, and reheat before serving. Store the spinach and red onion mix in the serving bowl, covered with plastic wrap and add the warm dressing just before eating. 

Can I use frozen spinach for warm spinach salad?

No, frozen spinach will not work in this salad. The raw spinach is crucial to the texture. 

 

This post may contain affiliate links.

Want to Save This Recipe?

Enter your email & I'll send it to your inbox.

Save Post

By submitting this form, you consent to receive emails from Coley Cooks.

A hand scooping up some spinach leaves with goat cheese, pancetta and red onions with a fork.
RATE THIS RECIPE
1
Ratings
Print Pin

Warm Spinach Salad with Pancetta + Goat Cheese

Warm Spinach Salad with Pancetta + Goat Cheese is a steakhouse inspired spinach salad that's great as a starter or main course! Simple to make, with a short ingredient list and still full of delicious flavors. 
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 2 servings
Calories: 305kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 10-ounce package baby spinach long stems removed if desired
  • ¼ small red onion very thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces goat cheese crumbled
  • 3 ounces pancetta or bacon cut into thick chunks *see note
  • 1 small shallot minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste plus more freshly cracked black pepper for serving
  • extra virgin olive oil as needed **see note

Instructions

  1. Add spinach and red onions to a large bowl.
  2. Place the pancetta in a medium saute pan, then place over medium heat and toss around until it starts to give up its fat. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until the pancetta is browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. 
  3. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta to a bowl and set aside. 
  4. Add the shallots to the pan and cook until they just start to soften, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper, then lower the heat and whisk until emulsified. Taste for seasoning and add more olive oil or vinegar if needed. 
  6. pour dressing over the spinach and toss until evenly coated. Add the crumbled goat cheese and reserved pancetta, then toss until evenly distributed.
  7. Serve immediately with more freshly cracked black pepper on top.

Notes

  • **Depending on the pancetta or bacon you use, you may have more or less fat than what's needed for the vinaigrette. Taste the dressing and adjust it to your liking - add more mustard and/or vinegar if you'd like it a bit sharper or drizzle in a little olive oil if you need to mellow it out.
  • This salad is meant to be served warm and unfortunately isn't as good at room temperature or cold because it's made with rendered pancetta or bacon fat, which hardens at room temperature and is very unappealing.
  • To keep the salad warm, place your plates in a low oven for a few minutes before serving and make sure you serve the salad immediately after making.
  • Don't skimp on the freshly cracked black pepper. It's especially good here!
  • Try it with a poached, crispy fried or soft-boiled eggs on top!

Nutrition

Calories: 305kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 583mg | Potassium: 959mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 13606IU | Vitamin C: 42mg | Calcium: 195mg | Iron: 5mg
5 from 1 vote

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a ⭐ rating and review!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    Made this to accompany filet mignon and hasselback potatoes for my husband’s birthday...it was better than a salad had any right to be 😉 Made it a second time and added strawberries....great recipe, thanks!