Sometimes, you need comfort food. While home today with a very sore throat and not much food in the fridge, I wondered what to make for lunch. It needed to be soft. It needed to make me feel better. It needed to be made from the few items I could scrounge up, and it needed to be prepared quickly. There was only one possibility: Spaghetti with Ricotta and Pecorino Romano, a double dose of sheep-milk heaven — and ready in less than 15 minutes. Perfect.
Spaghetti with Ricotta and Pecorino Romano
This is a free-form recipe; you can adjust any of the ingredients to suit your tastes. The quantities below are for one hungry pasta lover, but this dish could serve two people if part of a multi-course meal.
- 113 gr./ ¼ lb. spaghetti (or fettucine, tonnarelli, or other pasta)
- 1 tbsp. /14 gr. butter, cut into small pieces
- ¼-1/3 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- fresh, coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
- 65 gr./ 2 ¼ oz. sheep’s-milk ricotta, crumbled or cut into small pieces (* use the best, freshest ricotta you can find)
- Start boiling lightly salted water in a generously sized pot. When the water comes to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook just until al dente—often that’s about 1 minute less than indicated on the package.
- Meanwhile, place the pieces of butter in an unheated skillet or large bowl next to the pasta pot. Add the Pecorino Romano cheese, grind black pepper over top (to your liking), and sprinkle 2 tbsp. cooking water around the sides of the skillet or bowl.
- When the spaghetti is done, quickly scoop it out of its cooking water with a pasta ladle and drop it into the skillet or bowl. Don’t shake off all the cooking water; it is an essential ingredient. Stir and swirl the spaghetti vigorously to melt the butter, the Pecorino Romano cheese, and the cooking water into a light sauce. Add more cooking water if the pasta appears too dry.
- Check the seasonings (adding salt and more ground pepper if needed), gently fold in the ricotta, and serve immediately, with additional grated Pecorino Romano on the side.
Let me count the ways I love this dish:
- It is incredibly quick and easy,
- It is bold and zesty thanks to the spicy chicken chorizo and the tangy Pecorino Romano,
- It isn’t a typical tomato- or cream-based pasta dish,
- It contains pine nuts (a heavenly food, but one to be used sparingly because of the cost), and
- It is another way to use up some of that bumper crop of zucchini (… if you’ve had your fill of Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Squares).
I made this tonight in about 20 minutes–and yes, I did add the pine nuts, but they all went into hiding at photo time. If you have a bit more chorizo than you need for this recipe, add it to a delicious egg scramble in the morning, maybe with some poblano chilies, onions, and mushrooms. Mmmm.
Spaghetti with Chicken Chorizo, Zucchini, and Pine Nuts
3-4 tbsp. olive oil
2-3 links spicy chicken chorizo, removed from casings (about 2/3-1 lb.)
1 large zucchini, diced into small cubes (about 3 cups total)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 tbsp. pine nuts
1/2 lb. spaghetti
1 tbsp. butter
1 c. Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Start preparing spaghetti according to “al dente” directions on the package (check for doneness about a minute before the minimum time listed).
2. While water is coming to a boil, cook chorizo in olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until chorizo is no longer pink, breaking up the chorizo as it cooks. Add zucchini and cook until it has softened and the chorizo is golden. Add garlic during last five minutes of cooking time. If chorizo/zucchini mixture seems dry, add a bit more olive oil.
3. Push chorizo/zucchini mixture to one side of the skillet and sprinkle pine nuts onto the cleared space; cook the pine nuts for a couple minutes or until they turn golden. Incorporate them into the chorizo/zucchini mixture. If the pasta is not yet done, turn off the heat under the chorizo mixture and keep warm.
4. Just before draining the spaghetti, remove about 1/2 c. of the cooking water (or dip a glass measuring cup right into the pasta pot); reserve the water.
5. Drain the spaghetti, toss the drained spaghetti with butter, then pour the chorizo/zucchini mixture on top of the spaghetti and mix in well. If the mixture seems a bit dry, add a small amount of pasta cooking water to moisten.
6. Mix in the Pecorino Romano cheese, add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and serve immediately.
On Thanksgiving and by long tradition, 15+ family and friends join us to eat an almost equivalent number of dishes. This means that on Thanksgiving Eve, things can get a bit nutty. I usually have various items scattered about in various stages of preparation, and it’s hard to think of what to make for dinner–or muster up much enthusiasm for cooking it on top of everything else. Enter one great husband, who this year chose and prepared a classic Italian dish far removed from the traditional Thanksgiving offerings: Spaghetti and Meatballs.
Except Spaghetti and Meatballs isn’t a classic Italian dish, since most Italians would never eat meatballs with pasta. In fact, we have Italian friends who would rather stab themselves with a fork than contemplate such a gastronomic travesty. But those friends weren’t at our house this evening, so we were free to enjoy what is for many Americans a match made in heaven–one made even more heavenly by the fact that I had no hand in preparing it on this night of all nights. These fresh-tasting meatballs are adapted from the timeless New York Times Cookbook, by Craig Claiborne.
Meatballs for Spaghetti
1.5 lb. ground turkey
1 c. dry breadcrumbs (seasoned breadcrumbs are nice)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp. half-and-half, or cream
4 tbsp. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
4 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. freshly grated lemon rind
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. spaghetti
1. Mix all the meatball ingredients and blend well. Shape into about 24 meatballs.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet and brown meatballs, making sure not to crowd them (if necessary, cook in batches). Add sauce to skillet, and cook meatballs in sauce for about 15 minutes. (Or put sauce in a large saucepan, and add the meatballs to the sauce.)
3. Prepare spaghetti al dente, according to directions on package.
4. Serve meatballs with spaghetti and more Parmesan or Romano cheese.