Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summer Pasta with Asparagus and Ricotta

It's interesting to think about how the pasta we crave in the winter is so different from the pasta we crave in the summer. In the winter, I want a robust red sauce, braised for hours, with plenty of meat. In the summer, pasta needs to be lighter. I tend towards more lemony sauces with veggies and plenty of basil. That's probably why this recipe caught my eye when I saw it on the Willow Bird Baking blog. It's made with ricotta cheese and probably isn't all that healthy, but it's ok to splurge every once in awhile (or most of the time, in my case). It was pretty good! Bright and flavorful, like summer in a bowl.

20 ounces dried pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, sliced diagonally
1/4 cup white wine
2 ounces unsalted butter
8 spears asparagus, sliced into 2-inch chunks
8 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 bunch fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped
12 fresh basil leaves, rough chopped
lemon juice, salt, freshly ground pepper, Parmesan as needed

You can use whatever pasta you want. The original author used fettuccine, but I prefer a thinner pasta like angel hair most of the time. Start by making an ice water bath in a small bowl for the asparagus. Bring some water to boil in a small pan, or if you're like me and love economy of pans, use the same pot you'll later use for pasta. Blanch the asparagus for just 2 minutes and then fish them out and put them in ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside. If you're smart like me, you now have a nice pot of boiling water for your pasta. (It's slightly green but don't be weird about it.) Cook the pasta, drain and set that aside as well. Reserve a small amount of the pasta water just in case.

Over medium heat in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil before adding the shallots. Cook them for about a minute before adding the garlic and cooking for another 30 seconds. As always, don't burn the garlic. Deglaze with white wine and then whisk in the butter until it's melted. I'm not sure what the whisk does here, but I also don't know what would happen if you didn't whisk, so just whisk!

Put in the green onions and asparagus and cook for just a minute to heat them before reducing the heat to low. Now add in the ricotta cheese and stir. Give it plenty of salt and then add in the pasta plus a little pasta water to loosen up the sauce if it needs it. Add the parsley, basil, and the rest of the olive oil and mix in well. This is where you need to start tasting. Add more salt & pepper, and some lemon juice. I probably added 3-5 tablespoons of lemon juice because I like that bit of acid. Once it's tasting great, serve with some grated Parmesan on top, and enjoy the flavors of summer! 

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