Creamy Ricotta Shells with Peas and Prosciutto

March  2, 2010
0 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

As a recently displaced Italian college student in Germanic central Wisconsin, I'd been craving some quality pasta when I emailed my mother. In response to my complaints about Ramen noodles and an over-abundance of brats, she sent me this recipe, which I had found over the summer in one of her cooking binders. While we're both pretty sure its an America's Test Kitchen recipe, this combination of creamy ricotta with salty prosciutto and sweet peas is absolutely delicious, not to mention a no-fail crowd pleaser. The recipe is also incredibly forgiving; it stretches easily for a crowd and there's plenty of room to play around with the ingredients (since the only grocery store around my school is a Walmart, needless to say they did not have the quality prosciutto that I was looking for. I used bacon instead, and it was just as delicious). I've already made it at college twice, feeding at least 10 people each time, but I'm posting the smaller portion on here to save you the math. Enjoy! —ca transplant

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmesean cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • salt and pepper, to your taste
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/4 inch strips (Bacon will work just as well if you don't have any prosciutto around)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 white onion, minced
  • garlic cloves, minced (The original recipe calls for 2, but since I like a strong garlic flavor, I usually use 3 or 4. Go with your preferences on this!)
  • 1 pound small pasta shells (Again, this can be dependent on whatever type of pasta you have lying around; the shell shape is fun, but any other type will work just as well)
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Bring water to a boil in a large pot for shells. While that is starting, begin to combine the ricotta, Parmesan, butter, and around 1/4 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper in bowl large enough to hold the pasta. Mix together until the salt and pepper are distributed evenly and the butter has mostly been broken up.
  2. Cook the prosciutto and oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until it is well browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Saving the drippings in the skillet, transfer the prosciutto to a paper towel plate with a slotted spoon.
  3. Add onion to oil in skillet and cook over medium heat until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until its just beginning to turn golden. Stir the onion and garlic into the ricotta mix.
  4. When the water is boiling, stir in salt for flavor and then add the shells. Cook, stirring often, until the shells are al dente; almost tender but still a little firm to the bite. Add the peas during the final 30 seconds of cooking.
  5. Reserve around a cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the shells and peas. Whisk the lemon juice into the ricotta mix until smooth. All the shells and peas and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If needed, add small amounts of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce (I have never had to do this, but its up to you). Sprinkle the crisp prosciutto over the pasta and enjoy.

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