I am going to talk some more about ricotta. I can’t help it. Remember in "Annie Hall" when Woody Allen tells Diane Keaton, “Love is too weak a word for what I feel -- I lurve you, you know, I loave you, I loff you?” (No? What’s wrong with you? Are you that young? Just put it in your queue, okay?) Anyway, that is how I feel about ricotta.
Shop the Story
This week’s recipe, Lemon Ricotta Spaghetti with Arugula, was brought to you by Food52’s Francesca Gilberti, she of the lovely thick hair and Harvard thesis about Elizabeth David, because I was so wiped out from weeks of long work hours I could not even think about picking a recipe. This one caught her fancy, and I was happy it did, because it was right up my alley.
Step one was making homemade ricotta, thanks to MrsWheelbarrow, who showed me how incredibly easy this is (here is a gold standard recipe by Jennifer Perillo, for whom my heart breaks with the rest of the food community this morning over the loss of her dear husband). Added bonus: you get the whey that melissav calls for here. I very much appreciated that she walked me through each step, even telling me when to wash the arugula, i.e. when the pasta water is boiling.
Because I used capellini (more on that in a minute), which I knew would cook more quickly than spaghetti, and because I am a dirty recipe cheat, I added the lemon zest to my garlic a little while after I got it cooking. Then, when the water was boiling, I added the ricotta, which I had to break up a bit with my wooden spoon. Later, the pasta went in as instructed, with the whey and the arugula.
Boy did those leaves cook down quickly!
In fact, I’d like to say a thing or two to you, miss fancy pants aromatic salad green: You cost a lot, even in the farmer’s market. A whole lot of you reduces to very little; you are hard to divine. In short, you’re the friend who spends the entirety of every lunch date telling me about your stupid boyfriend, and never picks up the check.
If someone has a substitute in mind for arugula for this recipe, go ahead and let us all know. Otherwise, be prepared to use a lot here. (Oh and do finish it with lemon juice and some nice salt. It matters. As do the red pepper flakes.)
My only complaint about this very lovely recipe is that I would like more ricotta-and-greens to pasta ratio. In part, this is because I am greedy. And no doubt, as my husband helpfully pointed out, the capellini was really too dense for this recipe. Next time, when my larder is full, I will make it with the pasta called for here. And add more cheese. And more arugula. And some fresh black pepper. Jenny’s appetite knows no bounds.
While the water is coming to a boil, slice the garlic and put a small saute over low heat. Add the olive oil, the garlic, and a nice pinch of salt. Let the oil and garlic slowly heat up. You don't want the garlic to brown. You are just warming the oil and letting garlic infuse it. Ask a question about this step.
Once the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and reserve some pasta water if you don't have any ricotta whey. Ask a question about this step.
Once the pasta is boiling, turn the heat under the saute pan to as low as it goes and add the ricotta, lemon zest, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. You just want it all to warm it up while the pasta is cooking. Ask a question about this step.
Once you drain the pasta, add it to the saute pan and toss well. Add 1/4 cup of whey or cooking water and the arugula and toss again to coat and wilt the arugula. If you feel it is too dry, add up to 2 more TB of whey or cooking water. Taste for salt and add the juice from 1/2 a lemon and toss once more. Ask a question about this step.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).