Creamy Ricotta & Herb Pasta

This quick summer dish gobbled up the cilantro from my CSA share. The sauce was silky and fresh.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I reduced the oil and modified the method. Next time I may add some lemon zest and/or toasted pine nuts. Easy and delicious!

  • salt
  • 1 pound short pasta, such as shells, cavatappi, chiocciole, farfalle, ditali or wagon wheels (I used cascatelli)
  • about 12 ounces fresh, whole-milk ricotta (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
  • 2 1/2 cups soft herbs, packed, such as cilantro, basil, chives, fennel fronds, parsley, mint, tarragon, chervil or dill (try for a combination of at least 3 kinds), coarsely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • lemon zest, optional
  • handful of toasted pine nuts, optional
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 2 cups pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  2. In the same pot, make the sauce: Add ricotta, Parmesan, olive oil, pepper and a large pinch or two of coarse salt, and stir until well combined.
  3. Add 1 cup pasta water to the sauce and stir until smooth.
  4. Coarsely chop the herbs with a food processor, if desired. (I used 1 cup dill, 1 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup parsley, and 1/4 cup basil.)
  5. Add the cooked pasta and herbs, and continue to stir vigorously until the noodles are well coated. Add more pasta water as needed for a smooth, soupy sauce. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  6. Incorporate lemon zest and/or pine nuts, if using.
  7. To serve, spoon the pasta into a serving bowl or individual bowls and finish with more Parmesan, drizzle of olive oil and more pepper, as desired.

Vietnamese-American Garlic Noodles

I’m a garlic girl but even I was worried that this dish was going to be so garlicky it may be overpowering. Nope. Twenty cloves!

This recipe was adapted from the cookbook “The Wok” by J. Kenji López-Alt, based on the noodle dish originally created and served by Helene An at San Francisco’s Thanh Long restaurant, via The New York Times.

Lopez-Alt uses the genius technique of cooking the pasta in a minimal amount of liquid which expedites the cooking process. The starch-concentrated pasta water is then used in the sauce. This dish was crazy quick to prepare and was absolutely packed with flavor. We ate it with roasted asparagus on the side.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 20 medium garlic cloves, minced or smashed in a mortar and pestle
  • 4 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce or shoyu
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 pound dry spaghetti or linguine fini
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano (heaping 1/4 cup)(I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  •  small handful of thinly sliced scallions (I used 4 scallions)
  1. Use a food processor to mince the garlic cloves, if desired. (I used a mini food processor.)
  2. Melt the butter in a wok or saucepan over medium heat. (I used a stainless all-in-one pan.)
  3. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce, and stir to combine. Remove from the heat.
  5. Meanwhile, bring 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil in a 12-​inch skillet or sauté pan over high heat. (Alternatively, heat up just enough water to cover the spaghetti in a large Dutch oven or saucepan.)
  6. Add the pasta, stir a few times to make sure it’s not clumping, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente (about 2 minutes short of the recommended cook time on the package). (I used linguine fini and cooked it for a total of 4 minutes.)
  7. Using tongs, transfer the cooked pasta to the garlic sauce, along with whatever water clings to it. Reserve the pasta water in the skillet; set aside.
  8. Increase the heat to high, add the cheese to the pasta and sauce, and stir with a wooden spatula or spoon, tossing vigorously until the sauce is creamy and emulsified, about 30 seconds. If the sauce looks too watery, let it keep reducing. If it looks greasy, splash some more pasta cooking water and let it re-​emulsify.
  9. Stir in the scallions and serve immediately.

Weeknight Fancy Ravioli

I have a couple delicious weeknight pasta recipes to share.

The original recipe for this dish described it as “weeknight fancy”- loved it. The spicy brown-butter coated walnut topping was an essential element to earn this description.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Sarah Jampel. I served the flavorful sauce over arugula-parmesan ravioli and incorporated garlic and asparagus. I also modified the method. Any variety of store-bought ravioli would work with this dish.

Yield: Serves 4

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 10 oz package frozen peas (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup (lightly packed) basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 4 T unsalted butter, divided
  • 16–20 oz fresh or frozen ravioli (I used Trader Joe’s fresh Arugula & Parmesan Ravioli)
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) coarsely chopped raw walnuts or pistachios
  • 1 tsp Aleppo-style pepper
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces, optional
  1. Place the frozen peas in a fine-mesh sieve and place in a large pot of boiling salted water; cook until peas are tender, about 4 minutes.
  2. Lift sieve from water to drain peas and basil and transfer to a blender. (I used a Vitamix.)(Alternatively, you can skip the sieve and use a spider or slotted spoon to fish out the peas and basil.)
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and keep cooking liquid warm. (You will use it for the sauce, ravioli and the asparagus, if using.)
  4. Add the basil, garlic, grated Parmesan, 2 tablespoons butter (cut into 4 pieces) and 1/2 cup cooking liquid to the blender with the peas.
  5. Blend, gradually increasing speed to high and adding up to 1/4 cup additional cooking liquid as needed, until you have a mostly smooth, fairly loose sauce; season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. (I didn’t add any additional liquid.)
  6. Return cooking liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Add ravioli -and asparagus, if using. Cook, stirring gently to unstick, until tender, about 3 minutes or according to package directions. Drain reserving 1/2 cup of pasta liquid. Reserve pot.
  7. Meanwhile, melt remaining 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat.
  8. Add the chopped nuts and cook, stirring often, until butter begins to smell toasty and turn brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.
  9. Add Aleppo-style pepper, finely grate in lemon zest, and season lightly with salt; mix well.
  10. Slice lemon into wedges.
  11. Return cooked ravioli -and asparagus, if using- to pot, pour pea sauce over, and stir gently to coat. At this point, the consistency can be adjusted with reserved pasta water, if necessary. Using a large spoon, transfer ravioli to plates or a serving dish.
  12. Top with more Parmesan and basil, then spoon brown-butter nuts over the top. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over, as desired. 

Greek Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

This flavor-packed weeknight dish was included in Milk Street Magazine’s “Tuesday Nights” series which features weeknight dishes with bold and fresh flavors. I have found that meatballs that incorporate a panade, hydrated breadcrumbs, are very tender- great.

The recipe was adapted from Milk Street Magazine, contributed by Calvin Cox. According to the original article, these Greek oblong shaped meatballs are known as soutzoukakia smyrneika. Traditionally, they are served with tiganites patates (potatoes fried in olive oil). We ate them with crusty bread to sop up every bit of sauce. The dish could also be served with roasted potatoes or a rice or orzo pilaf.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 large garlic cloves, 2 finely gratedn(I used a garlic press), 1 thinly sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the panko, egg and 1/2 cup water, then mix until homogeneous. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the panko to hydrate. (This step is very important in order to create soft and tender meatballs.)
  2. Add the pork, cumin, the grated (or pressed) garlic, 1/2 teaspoon pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon oregano, 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, then mix well.
  3. Divide into 11 or 12 portions (each about a scant 1/4 cup), then shape each into a 2 1/2-inch-long cigar (oblong) shape.
  4. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. (Non-stick can be used; I used a 12-inch stainless all-in-one pan.)
  5. Add the meatballs and cook without disturbing until browned on the bottoms, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the meatballs and cook until browned on the second sides, another 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Remove the skillet from the heat, transfer the meatballs to a paper towel–lined plate and set aside.
  7. Return the skillet to medium-high and add the sliced garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and starting to brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  9. Stir in the tomatoes, cinnamon, honey and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper, then bring to a simmer.
  10. Place the meatballs in the pan and return to a simmer. Cover and simmer, undisturbed, until the centers of the meatballs reach 160°F, 12 to 14 minutes.
  11. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper.
  12. Transfer the meatballs and sauce to serving dish. Drizzle with additional oil, if desired, and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oregano.

Creamy Broccoli Pasta

Growing up, my mom frequently made what we referred to as “white spaghetti” (aka spaghetti without red sauce!). The pasta was coated with garlicky olive oil and topped with crispy garlic slices, broccoli florets, and Parmesan cheese. Classic. 🙂

This version is from Old World Italian: Recipes & Secrets from Our Travels in Italy by Mimi Thorisson. The recipe is included in the “Roman Pastas” section of this beautiful book. It is a little bit more indulgent than my mom’s rendition because it contains more cheese as well as heavy cream. I loved that the broccoli was chopped and incorporated into the creamy sauce.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 large head broccoli and stems (about 1 pound or 450g), cut into small florets and coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound (500g) dried spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 garlic clove(s), minced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cups (115g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the broccoli and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Remove with a kitchen spider or slotted spoon and set aside, keeping the water boiling to cook the pasta.
  3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 2 cups (500ml) of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the empty pot and set aside.
  4. Chop the onion and mince the garlic in a food processor. Set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  6. Add the onion and sauté until tender and golden, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
  8. Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper.
  9. Pour the cream over the mixture and cook for 15 seconds. Remove from heat.
  10. Transfer the broccoli mixture to a food processor and process until roughly creamy.
  11. Add the broccoli sauce and a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water to the pot of pasta and set the pot over medium heat. Cook, tossing frequently, adding more pasta water as needed to adjust the consistency, until the pasta is well coated, 1 to 2 minutes.
  12. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl, if desired. Scatter the grated Parmesan on top and serve immediately.

Pesto-ish Risotto

Every fall, black swallowtail caterpillars takeover my backyard basil plants. I needed to make this basil-loaded dish before sharing my plants with them. :/

This risotto was rich, creamy, and hearty. The absolute highlight of the finished dish was the crispy garlic and pan-toasted pine nut topping. Loved it.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Christian Reynoso. I adapted the original recipe to prepare it in a pressure cooker. Easy and elegant.

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

  • 4 T unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 5 to 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced, divided
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) raw pine nuts
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups (loosely packed) basil leaves (from 1 large bunch), torn into 1″ pieces
  • shaved or finely grated Parmesan, for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • Parmesan rind, optional
  • juice of 1/2 large lemon
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a 5 or 7 quart pressure cooker over medium heat.
  2. Add the rice and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring, until grains are partially translucent, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  3. Add 2 cloves of garlic slices and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add all of the unheated stock; stir.
  5. Lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure over high heat.
  6. Adjust the heat to maintain high pressure. Cook for 7 minutes.
  7. Release the pressure according to the manufacturer’s instructions or place the pot under running cold water. (I used a quick release method.)
  8. Carefully open the lid, being careful of the steam. The stock should be almost completely absorbed but the rice will be covered with a thick layer of milky broth. (more stock can be added at this point if the risotto appears too thick)
  9. Meanwhile, cook the remaining 6 cloves of garlic slices, olive oil, and pine nuts in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic starts to turn golden around edges. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring often, until pine nuts and garlic are golden, about 5 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat; stir in turmeric and season with pepper, to taste. Set aside.
  11. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the Parmesan rind, if using, into the risotto. Season with salt, to taste.
  12. Stir the freshly squeezed lemon juice into the risotto and add freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  13. Stir basil into risotto.
  14. Ladle risotto, discarding the Parmesan rind, into shallow bowls. Top with garlic–pine nut oil and Parmesan. Serve.

Caramelized Pork & Cucumber Stir-Fry

I have never cooked cucumbers before! The cucumber slices in this stir-fry were quickly sautéed until just crisp tender- great. I also loved the seasonings in the finished dish.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Christina Chaey. I used my largest skillet (14-inch) but would use a 12-inch next time. I don’t have a 14-inch splatter screen and I made quite a mess. :/ It was worth it.

Yield: Serves 3 to 4

  • 1 large English/European cucumber, peeled in alternating lengthwise strips, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, halves sliced crosswise on a diagonal 1/2-inch thick (I used a melon baller to remove the seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt (or 1 tsp Diamond Crystal), plus more
  • 2 T oyster sauce
  • 2 T soy sauce (I used Trader Joe’s light soy sauce)
  • 2 T Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine) or medium-dry sherry (I used dry sherry)
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 3 T grapeseed or vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 Fresno chile, halved, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 one-inch piece ginger root, peeled, finely grated
  • 2 to 4 large garlic cloves, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground white or black pepper
  • white rice, for serving (I used white Basmati rice)
  • minced cilantro, for garnish, optional
  1. Toss cucumber slices and kosher salt in a medium bowl to coat evenly. Let sit until cucumber slices start to release their liquid, about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, stir oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sherry (or Shaoxing wine) in a small bowl to combine; set aside.
  3. Using your hands, form pork into six small patties. Season lightly with salt; set aside.
  4. Drain cucumber slices in a colander and rinse well under cool running water. Drain, shaking off any excess water, then pat dry with a kitchen towel.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet (12-inch) over medium-high. Cook cucumber slices, tossing vigorously, until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.
  6. Wipe out skillet and heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high.
  7. Add reserved pork patties; gently flatten with a spatula. Cook, pressing occasionally to help meat make contact with pan, until deeply browned and crisp underneath, about 4 minutes.
  8. Flip patties; cook until other side is deeply browned and crisp, about 4 minutes.
  9. Break up pork into large pieces; continue to cook until no longer pink, about 1 minute.
  10. Add chile, ginger, garlic, and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  11. Add cucumber back to skillet along with reserved sauce. Cook, tossing often, until sauce is reduced and evenly coats pork and cucumber slices, about 1 minute.
  12. Serve stir-fry over rice. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

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