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Penne with Ricotta and Asparagus

Penne with Ricotta and Asparagus


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Penne with ricotta and asparagus! Simple spring pasta with asparagus, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, garlic, and a dash of nutmeg.

Photography Credit:Elise Bauer

With California asparagus selling for less than $4 per pound, they’re hard to resist, especially with summer weather knocking on the door.

I tore this recipe for pasta with asparagus and ricotta cheese out of the New York Times magazine a few weeks ago, where it found its way under a pile of bills, magazines, and other recipes, until today when it became my excuse to gleefully buy some what are sure to be last-of-the-season asparagus.

I amended the original recipe by adding a few dashes of nutmeg to the seasoning, for an added kick. This recipe is simple, both in taste and method, only requires one pot, and makes a huge amount.

It’s a little heavy on the pasta, you could easily cut it back. You can also dress it up some by adding lemon zest, cut cherry tomatoes, or even some Italian sausage.

Penne with Ricotta and Asparagus Recipe

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 1 1/4 pound thick asparagus, woody ends trimmed
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Nutmeg

Method

1 Blanch the asparagus: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. (You will cook both the asparagus and the pasta in the same pot of water.) Add a couple teaspoons of salt. Have an ice bath ready. Add the asparagus and cook until tender but firm, about 4 minutes.

Remove the asparagus with tongs and place in the ice bath to stop the cooking.

2 Cut the asparagus into 1/8-inch diagonal slices, leaving the tips intact.

3 Cook the pasta: Bring the water back to a boil and add the penne pasta.

4 Make the ricotta sauce: While the penne is cooking, rub the inside of a large serving bowl with the mashed garlic. Discard the garlic. Add the ricotta, olive oil, and 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. Mix together in the bowl.

5 Add pasta to the ricotta mixture, with asparagus and parm: When the pasta is done, drain it, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the penne to the ricotta mixture. Fold in the asparagus and half of the Parmesan cheese.

Season to taste with salt, pepper, and several dashes of nutmeg. Add some of the reserved pasta water if needed.

6 Serve with remaining grated Parmesan cheese in a separate bowl for sprinkling.

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List of Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 LB. of asparagus
  • 1 LB. of penne
  • 1 1/4 CUP of ricotta
  • 3 OZ. of prosciutto cotto (ham)
  • 1/3 CUP of Grana Padano, grated
  • salt

Method

Trim the asparagus, removing the tough ends. Wash and boil the stalks in salted water. Drain the asparagus and cut off the tips, reserving them for garnish. Purée the rest in a blender with the ricotta.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta.

Cut prosciutto cotto (ham) into thin strips. Toss the pasta with the asparagus-ricotta purée. Top with Grana Padano, prosciutto, and the asparagus tips. Serve immediately.


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Preparation

Step 1

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta and asparagus are tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ricotta and the reserved cooking liquid until creamy. Add the pasta mixture, mozzarella, Parmesan and basil and toss until well mixed. Serve at once


  • 8 ounces penne or ziti
  • 2 ½ cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 1 ½ cups 1-inch pieces fresh asparagus or green beans
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 cup light ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 leaf Basil sprigs

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding broccoli and asparagus (or green beans) during the last 3 minutes of cooking.

Meanwhile, place a fine strainer over a large bowl. Cut tomatoes in half squeeze seeds and juice into the strainer. With the back of a spoon, push the seeds to extract the juice discard the seeds. Add ricotta cheese, basil, thyme, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper to the tomato juice mix well. Chop the tomatoes stir into the ricotta mixture.

Drain the pasta and vegetables add to the bowl and toss well. Sprinkle with Parmesan. If desired, garnish with basil sprigs.


  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch diagonal pieces
  • 2 bunches scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch diagonal pieces
  • ¾ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • 12 ounces penne
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup slivered fresh basil

Put a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus and scallions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and browned in places, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk ricotta and lemon zest in a large bowl. Cook penne until just tender, about 10 minutes. Measure out 1/4 cup of the pasta-cooking water stir into ricotta mixture until creamy. Drain the penne and mix into the ricotta mixture toss to coat. Add the vegetables and toss well. Season with salt and pepper. Serve, garnished with basil.


Reviews ( 10 )

I used half whole wheat and half regular penne. I also used more pancetta as the package held 4 oz and wanted to use it up. Will make again. A bit time consuming for a weeknight meal but not bad.

The liquid didn't thickenor absorb enough and I ended up pouring a lot of it out. It tasted okay, though, and was better after adding a squeeze of lemon juice.

This sounded so good. but it was bland. I made half the recipe and only used 4 ounces of pasta. I admit i didn't add as much salt as it called - it sounded like a lot but it surely was not creamy and i followed the recipe. Maybe a shallot or more onion would help but it needs something.

This turned out great! I added green beans instead of the mushrooms and it was delicious. I also added grated some fresh parmesan cheese on top. I will definitely make this recipe again!

This was very good! Next time I will add more asparagus. It's definitely important to season throughout per the recipe. And I added ground black pepper and extra thyme. Even the kids loved it!

I made this last week and it was super easy and so delicious. I will definitely be making this again.

Loved this recipe! Used a flavorful stock and I think it added flavor. Also added extra thyme and lemon to taste. Wonderful recipe!

Followed recipe to a T and it just didn't taste good. Wouldn't make again and wouldn't recommend

My (picky) husband and I loved this dish. The flavors came together so nicely! At first, I was worried that there was too much liquid, but by the end, it had all evaporated, thickened, and absorbed into a nice creamy and delicious sauce. I will absolutely make this again! I used Dreamfields pasta instead of regular whole wheat pasta, because my husband prefers the taste.

I have made hundreds of Cooking Light recipes over the years and never felt compelled to write a recipe review until now. I had high hopes for this pasta-- asparagus, mushrooms, pancetta, in a creamy sauce-- what could be better?

I am a reasonably talented home cook, and I followed instructions on this recipe precisely, and the results were *terrible*! I am willing to account for some amount of user error possibly, or for the result simply not being to my personal tastes, but the flavor profile overall was just off. In the time it takes to cook the mushrooms, the pancetta was beyond crispy into barely-shy-of-burned. The asparagus needs far longer to cook. The pasta ended up undercooked as well (and with not enough liquid left, there was no way to cook it longer). The beurre manie added in at the end does a great job of thickening the sauce, but there's not enough sauce in the first place for a beurre manie to work as it should in this type of recipe. It left the sauce thickened but gritty (the flour needs room to "disperse", and with not quite enough liquid in the pot, in spite of appearing to have dissolved well, it seemed to have clung to the pasta, maybe?).

Again, usually, Cooking Light hits it out of the ballpark, but this recipe was a total waste of time and ingredients. And also, just because something is "one pot" does not mean that it's easy or fast or results in less dishes (a plate, a bowl, a drawer full of measuring cups, etc.). Too many fidgety steps that would have been worth it had the result been amazing, but I spent 45+ minutes making something that I ended up barely able to choke down. Even my Eats-It-All spouse kindly asked that we never make this recipe again!


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This is the first time I've said I wouldn't make something again. The basic tomato sauce is fine, but the asparagus just doesn't go with it.

This was pretty simple, nice, but nothing special. I would think about making it again, but will probably look for something else.

We have made this dish several times and love it! I have added cooked shrimp one time,grilled chicken,and (cooked)Italian sausage to the dish, and we loved it with either the chicken or sausage added to it. This dish has a nice "zip" to it from the red pepper that we feel really makes the dish. I halve the recipe, as there are only two of us, and it makes more than enough for a hearty dinner and lunch the next day too. I add a can of tomato sauce as well, so the pasta is not so dry. Overall, it is an excellent recipe and very easy to make! We highly recommend it!

This dish was just okay, but it definately has potential. I used Cellentani pasta instead of penne and I also added some mushrooms. The dish looked absolutely beautiful, like something you want to serve to company, but it lacked something. I think adding half sweet and half hot italian sausages would make it a fabulous dish.

This was fairly simple to make -- something working families don't have to wait for the weekend to make. My family enjoyed it, but wasn't overwhelmed. It was a nice twist, though. Different from the boring pasta sauce we usually eat.


Recipe: For a bright pasta primavera, toss penne with lots of herbs and green vegetables

Pasta Primavera. Karoline Boehm Goodnick

Primavera is the garnish for pasta that was originally meant to highlight spring produce but lost its sense of seasonality when it became a year-round fixture on restaurant menus. Although primavera is Italian for "spring," the dish wasn't invented in Italy, but rather at Le Cirque restaurant in New York. This variation showcases broccoli florets, green peas, sugar snaps, and asparagus. There's nothing complicated about it just don't forget to reserve some pasta cooking water for the sauce. Pick any herbs growing in your garden or on your kitchen windowsill and be generous with whatever you choose.

Salt and pepper, to taste
¾pound penne or other short pasta
1cup broccoli florets (about half a small crown)
1cup frozen green peas (or fresh, if available)
2tablespoons butter
2tablespoons olive oil
½ onion, thinly sliced
3cloves garlic, chopped
1cup sugar snap peas, strings removed, pods halved on an angle
½bunch fresh asparagus, end trimmed, stalks cut into 2-inch pieces
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, chives with their flowers

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook, stirring once or twice, for 9 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and peas. Cook 2 minutes more, or until the pasta is tender but still has some bite. Dip a heatproof measuring cup in the pasta water and remove 1 cup. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot with 1/2 cup pasta water and the butter. Stir occasionally until the butter melts.

2. In a skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the snap peas and asparagus. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more, or until they are just tender but still bright green.

3. Add the vegetables, lemon rind, and herbs to the pasta with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Add more pasta water, if you like, to make the mixture the consistency you prefer. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

Karoline Boehm Goodnick

Primavera is the garnish for pasta that was originally meant to highlight spring produce but lost its sense of seasonality when it became a year-round fixture on restaurant menus. Although primavera is Italian for "spring," the dish wasn't invented in Italy, but rather at Le Cirque restaurant in New York. This variation showcases broccoli florets, green peas, sugar snaps, and asparagus. There's nothing complicated about it just don't forget to reserve some pasta cooking water for the sauce. Pick any herbs growing in your garden or on your kitchen windowsill and be generous with whatever you choose.

Salt and pepper, to taste
¾pound penne or other short pasta
1cup broccoli florets (about half a small crown)
1cup frozen green peas (or fresh, if available)
2tablespoons butter
2tablespoons olive oil
½ onion, thinly sliced
3cloves garlic, chopped
1cup sugar snap peas, strings removed, pods halved on an angle
½bunch fresh asparagus, end trimmed, stalks cut into 2-inch pieces
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, chives with their flowers

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook, stirring once or twice, for 9 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and peas. Cook 2 minutes more, or until the pasta is tender but still has some bite. Dip a heatproof measuring cup in the pasta water and remove 1 cup. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot with 1/2 cup pasta water and the butter. Stir occasionally until the butter melts.

2. In a skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the snap peas and asparagus. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more, or until they are just tender but still bright green.

3. Add the vegetables, lemon rind, and herbs to the pasta with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Add more pasta water, if you like, to make the mixture the consistency you prefer. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Karoline Boehm Goodnick


The Reason Why Tomato Sauce with Vodka Tastes so Good

Unlike wine, which we’re accustomed to being used in sauces, vodka is supposedly a flavourless alcohol. So does it really add anything to the taste of tomato sauce?

Alcohol molecules usually trap more volatile molecules in food, stopping them from releasing flavours. That means the more alcohol you add to a dish, and the stronger that alcohol is, the more it will overpower the natural flavours of the other ingredients.

But, crucially, by cooking most of the alcohol molecules off, you’re left with just small traces of alcohol that can actually stimulate the release of flavours previously hidden in other ingredients – in this case, tomatoes.

What that means is the addition of vodka to a tomato sauce creates a sharper, slightly more peppery element that cuts through the tomatoes’ natural sweetness. The balance of flavours is close to perfect.


Recipe Summary

  • 1 cup penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 10 spears asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 18 peeled and deveined large shrimp (21 to 25 per lb)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and onion, and cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Pour in the white wine, and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes, butter, and asparagus cook until the asparagus is just tender, about 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and lemon juice, continue cooking until the shrimp have turned pink and are no longer translucent in the center. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss the cooked penne pasta with the shrimp and asparagus mixture. Sprinkle with parsley and Parmesan cheese to garnish.