Recipe: Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

I learned this treatment for pasta from an old neighbor of mine who took his cooking very seriously and made even the simplest thing seem complicated. Music gets changed, cocktails are poured, stories told. There's a lot of gesticulating. But really, all there is to it is boiling the pasta, tossing the sauce ingredients into a metal bowl, and stirring them over the boiling water pot, then tossing in the drained pasta, and I've translated his method. For you, it can be simple.

This pasta can be pulled together in as long as it takes the pasta to cook; between 9 and 13 minutes, depending on the shape you use. Because it is so simple, uncooked and has so few ingredients, it makes a difference to choose the best-quality ingredients you can find. Especially when it comes to the ricotta. If you can avoid the skim and commercially made versions, do. If you have time, you can even make your own.

The pasta shapes that best compliment this sauce are small shaped pieces like rotini, penne, fusilli, and gemili; these shapes hold the sauce. Again, quality makes a big difference here. Now's a time to spring for something better than plain-wrap spaghetti. However, if it's all you have, you'll still be eating well.

Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

serves 6

1 pound good-quality pasta, in a short twisted shape or with a hole or groove
1 15-ounce package (about 2 cups) fresh ricotta cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
Juice and zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 loosely packed basil leaves, sliced thin (chiffonade)

Set a pot of water to boil. When it boils, add a few teaspoons of salt and the pasta.

In a metal bowl wide enough to fit over the top of the pot, mix together the remaining ingredients, excluding the basil. When there are about 2 minutes remaining in the pasta's cooking time, place the bowl over the pot and slowly stir the ricotta and other ingredients. You should see it loosening as it warms.

When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain it, add the basil to the bowl of sauce and toss with the drained pasta.

Per serving, based on 6 servings. (% daily value)
10.5 g (16.2%)
3.9 g (19.6%)
57.2 g (19.1%)
2.5 g (9.9%)
2.2 g
16.6 g (33.2%)
12.8 mg (4.3%)
500.2 mg (20.8%)