Asparagus Ricotta Penne

I've been reflecting on my love of Italian food and culture lately.  I am genuinely awed by the level of respect Italians hold for their food.  In southern Italy, fresh ingredients are abundant and are more often than not grown in their small yards or terraces cut into the mountainside.  The Italians seems to let the natural flavors sing, by keeping the cooking simple and avoiding processed or artificial additives.  Again, this reminds me of the saying, "Non piu di cinque" which refers to "not more than five" elements per dish.

This recipe absolutely reflects the honest cooking of Italy.  Unlike the majority of Italian-American cuisine I've sampled, it doesn't contain heavy creamy sauces or a blanket of cheese which hides the noodles.  You will be able to distinctly detect three textures: the crunch of the blanched asparagus, the slight chew of the penne pasta, and the smooth, airy ricotta.  I think the highlight to this primi piatti  {first course} is the touch of lemon.  

Through this small bowl of pasta, you'll get to experience a little bit of Italy.  So, come take a journey with me as you make some Asparagus Ricotta Penne tonight.

 

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Ingredients for Asparagus Ricotta Penne (serves 4 small plates)

  • 2 cups of organic penne pasta
  • 4 to 6 asparagus, washed and ends trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons of ricotta, drained
  • wedge of lemon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • extra virgin olive oil, enough for a light drizzle
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions for Asparagus Ricotta Penne

  1. In a large sauce pan, bring salted water to a boil.  Once boiling add pasta.  Stir occasionally to prevent the noodles from sticking.  Cook 8 - 12 minutes.  
  2. Strain noodles from water, reserve water to blanch asparagus.  After blanching for 2 to 3 minutes, place asparagus into a ice bath for 1 minute.  Place asparagus onto paper towels to pat dry.
  3. Cut asparagus into small bite-sized pieces.  
  4. Toss together penne noodles, asparagus, ricotta, and lemon zest.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Squeeze 1 wedge of lemon over the pasta and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  May serve warm or at room temperature.