Melia Marden grew up in New York and Greece, where she enjoyed great seasonal food and a family that loved to entertain. In Modern Mediterranean (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013), the executive chef at New York City's hotspot, The Smile, presents 125 easy Mediterranean-inspired recipes for the home cook. From Minted Snap Peas to Watermelon Salad to Summer Steak Sliced Over Corn to Almond Cream with Cherries and Pistachios, these recipes call for bold flavors. The following Penne Rigate Recipe with Sugar Snap Peas and Ricotta is excerpted from chapter 6, “Pizza & Pasta.”
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Sweet, crunchy sugar snaps, mint, and parsley make this pasta taste like a mouthful of spring. I like to make the ricotta myself so that the texture is thick and creamy, although store-bought will work as well. You can make the ricotta on the stovetop while you prepare the rest of the pasta ingredients.
1 pound (455 grams) sugar snap peas, strings removed
1 pound (455 grams) penne rigate
3 tablespoons (45 milliliters)
Extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pasta
2 shallots, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (250 grams) fresh ricotta (recipe follows), at room temperature
1/4 cup (25 grams) finely chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup (25 grams) finely chopped fresh parsley
1. Cut the snap peas crosswise on a bias into pieces 1/4 inch (6 millimeters) thick. Set aside.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne rigate and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Before you drain the pasta, reserve 1 cup (240 milliliters) of the cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta, place in a large bowl, and toss with a little olive oil.
3. Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the 3 tablespoons (45 milliliters) oil. Heat for 30 seconds, then add the shallots. Cook until softened but not browned, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Add the snap peas, 3/4 teaspoon salt, the chili flakes, and black pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often, until the snap peas are tender but still bright green and slightly crunchy, 3 to 5 minutes.
5. Add the pasta, ricotta, and reserved cooking water to the pot and stir well to combine. Cook until the pasta is warmed through and well coated by the other ingredients. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Add most of the mint and parsley and mix well.
6. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining herbs and some more black pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
So often the labor-intensive home version of a basic ingredient isn’t worth the effort, especially when there are so many options made by experts at your fingertips. I always thought that homemade ricotta was one of those things — far too much of a pain to possibly be worth it. Then, of course, when I actually tried making it, I realized it’s incredibly simple and tastes infinitely better than the grocery-store version. I use a mixture of whole milk and heavy cream for a smoother, more spreadable texture.
2 quarts (2 liters) good-quality whole milk
1 cup (240 milliliters) heavy cream
1 cup (240 milliliters) buttermilk
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1. In a large pot, combine the milk, cream, buttermilk, lemon juice, and salt and stir once.
2. Cook, without stirring, over medium heat until the mixture appears curdled and separated, about 20 minutes, then remove from the heat. Make sure the mixture never reaches more than a gentle simmer or the curds will break up and become tough. If it starts to boil, turn the heat to medium-low.
3. Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Use a slotted spoon to ladle all the separated cheese curd from the mixture into the strainer.
4. Let sit until most of the liquid has drained out and the ricotta is firm, at least 10 minutes. Discard the liquid in the cooking pot.
5. Transfer the drained curd to a separate bowl and save the liquid that has drained into the first mixing bowl. Add the white pepper to the curd and stir well, then season with more salt to taste, if desired. If the ricotta seems too dry, stir in a little of the reserved liquid until you have a good consistency. It should be creamy and spreadable but not watery.
6. I love to eat it while it’s still warm, but the ricotta can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes about 1 3/4 cups (440 grams).
Reprinted with permission from Modern Mediterranean: Easy, Flavorful Home Cooking by Melia Marden and published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013. Buy this book from our store: Modern Mediterranean.
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