Spring Vegetable Pasta With Whipped Ricotta & Garlic Confit

April 13, 2021
2 Ratings
Photo by Pasta Social Club
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 2 to 4
Author Notes

This bright and creamy pasta is a celebration of some of my favorite spring produce and the buttery, sweet-yet-savory condiment I can’t live without: garlic confit. When it comes to the produce, any summer squash will do nicely, from zucchini to pattypan (here, I’ve used a Korean squash from Girl & Dug Farm in California known as squashini). I’ve also opted for peas, mint, and basil, but don’t hesitate to tailor it to your preferences and what you have on hand—asparagus and fava beans would work beautifully, too. Plus, the garlic confit and whipped ricotta can be made in advance, so this dish is easy to pull together in under 30 minutes on a weeknight, yet looks restaurant-level impressive.

A few notes:
- Leftover garlic confit is excellent paired with bread, salads, chicken, marinades, dips, you name it. Just make sure the cloves are totally covered in olive oil when you’re storing it (use more fresh oil if you use up the oil already in the confit—this keeps it safely preserved for up to 2 to 3 weeks).
- A dash of cream will make the whipped ricotta a little bit fluffier, but it’ll taste great without it, too.
- If you decide to make your own orecchiette (highly recommend!), reduce the pasta cooking time to about 3 to 5 minutes. —Meryl Feinstein, Pasta Social Club

What You'll Need
  • Garlic confit
  • 300 grams (about 2 cups, or 6 heads) peeled garlic cloves (I use pre-peeled garlic. It’s worth it!)
  • 450 milliliters (about 2 cups) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves (optional)
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs (optional)
  • Pasta assembly
  • Whipped ricotta:
  • 340 grams (1 1/2 cups) whole milk ricotta
  • 60 milliliters (1/4 cup) heavy cream (optional)
  • 10 milliliters (1 tablespoon) extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • Pasta and sauce:
  • 340 grams (12 ounces) dried orecchiette (or similar pasta, like medium shells)
  • 60 to 80 grams (about 1/4 cup) prepared garlic confit, plus more for serving
  • 450 grams (about 3 cups; 2 to 3 medium) zucchini or other summer squash, cut into small cubes
  • 130 grams (1 cup) fresh or frozen peas
  • 6 grams (1 tablespoon) lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
  • 45 milliliters (3 tablespoons) freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A large handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped, plus more for serving
  • A large handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped, plus more for serving
  1. For the garlic confit:
    Combine the peeled garlic, herbs (if using), and olive oil in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. The olive oil should cover the garlic completely.
  2. Cook the garlic over very low heat (a bare simmer) until the cloves are tender, about 45 minutes. The garlic might turn golden in some areas but it should not brown. Check every so often to make sure the oil isn’t getting too hot—if it is, remove the saucepan from the heat for a couple of minutes to cool down, then continue cooking. When it’s done, remove the herbs and let cool.

    Note: The garlic confit can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly sealed in a glass canning jar or another airtight container, for several weeks, as long as the cloves are totally submerged in oil. (Transfer the garlic with a slotted spoon to a large glass canning jar or other airtight container, then pour the oil over. You’ll use some of this oil in the recipe, so it’s important to replenish the oil to ensure the garlic remains covered.)
  3. For the whipped ricotta:
    Drain off any liquid from the ricotta. If it’s particularly watery, spread the cheese out on a paper-towel-lined plate to absorb excess moisture.
  4. Add the ricotta, cream (if using), olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice to a food processor, along with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse until very smooth and airy, about 30 seconds.
  5. Adjust seasoning to taste (don’t be shy with the salt; it’ll bring out the ricotta’s mild flavor). Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

    Note: The whipped ricotta can be made 1 to 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before serving (don’t leave out for more than 2 hours).
  6. For the pasta and sauce:
    Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  7. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mash several garlic confit cloves with a fork into a paste. Add the paste, along with some of the garlic oil, to a large saucepan or skillet (make sure it’s large enough to hold all the pasta). Cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  8. Stir in the cubed zucchini so it’s completely coated in the garlic. Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  9. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Set aside.
  10. When the water is boiling, salt it generously and add the pasta. Stir for a few seconds to prevent sticking. Cook the pasta until it’s a minute or two shy of al dente (refer to the box for timing), or to your liking.
  11. When the pasta is almost ready, return the garlic mixture to medium heat. Transfer the pasta directly to the saucepan with a spider or slotted spoon, along with a spoonful or two of pasta cooking water.
  12. Stir in the peas. Simmer for another few minutes, until everything is cooked through and the liquid thickens slightly. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and gently fold in the chopped herbs.
  13. Divide the whipped ricotta among four plates and spread it around with the back of a spoon. Drizzle some garlic confit oil on top of the cheese, then follow with the pasta. Top with more fresh herbs, garlic oil, and freshly ground black pepper, if desired. Serve immediately and make sure to get some creamy ricotta in every bite!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Nati Wilke
    Nati Wilke
  • sandra
Meryl Feinstein is a chef and pastaia who left the corporate world for the food industry in 2018. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education, Meryl got her start at the renowned New York establishments Lilia and Misi, where she was part of the pasta production team. During that time, Meryl founded Pasta Social Club, a platform that brings people together over a shared love of food, learning, and making connections both on- and offline. She now lives in Austin, where she hosts virtual pasta-making workshops and develops recipes. Her dishes draw on her travels in Italy, ongoing research into the rich history of traditional pasta-making, and her Jewish heritage.

2 Reviews

Nati W. May 7, 2021
This recipe is incredible! Might add a little bit of Parmesan on the top next time. Perfect.
sandra April 22, 2021
This was delicious. Light. tasty and the perfect dish to welcome spring