Thursday, April 12, 2012

Campanelle Pasta with Walnuts, Ricotta, and Lemon

This pasta and I shared a special moment during my first bite. It actually happened before it was fully assembled, when it was just perfectly salted al dente pasta drizzled with garlic infused olive oil. I hate to brag, but I think it may have been one of the best things I've ever tasted...which just goes to prove that sometimes the simplest of foods are the very best.
There's one thing a little different about this recipe: the ricotta is added at the last possible moment before eating, preferably onto each individual plate. The reason is to prevent it from melting all over the pasta and giving it a gooey coated look. It's also nice to have a pop of sweet ricotta in some bites but not in all. But if this seems like too much of a hassle, you may choose to toss the cheese with the rest of the ingredients. It just won't look as pretty as mine. ;)

If you've never had campanelle pasta before, you should definitely try to find some for this dish. First, the word campanelle means "little bells" in Italian. So cute, right? It's worth getting them just for that. And then they're just the right shape to get little flavorful bits of garlic and walnuts stuck in the tube of the bell. Whoever said pasta shape doesn't matter is dead dead wrong. But if no campanelle can be found, you can make do with penne or even medium-sized shells.

And finally, I'd recommend reserving just a little of the olive oil for later (or doubling it to use in another dish at a later date). We had plenty left for lunch the next day, but the oil, as oil does, had soaked into the pasta making it just a little dry as leftovers. I found myself wishing I had a little more of that tasty oil to spritz over the pasta and relive my perfect pasta moment.

Campanelle Pasta with Walnuts, Ricotta, and Lemon
Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Living May 2012
Picture by Kelly

1 pound campanelle pasta (or penne)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
2 heaping tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
4 oz walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  1. Cook pasta in well-salted water according to directions on package. Drain.
  2. Heat oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is pale brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Add pasta to oil and toss. Add parsley, zest, and walnuts. Season with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine. 
  4. Divide pasta into bowls and dot with cheese. Garnish with additional parsley, if desired. 

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