Recipe 62: Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

Summer isn’t the best season for mac and cheese, lets be honest.  It’s so hot you don’t want to fire up the oven or load up on carbs.  But there is an exception to every rule.  I saw this recipe and decided with the lemon and fresh basil, it would be perfect for summer.

Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil (from The Kitchn)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pasta, small shapes, like rotini, penne, fusilli, and gemelli (I used corn elbows)
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese, preferably freshly-made
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used Pecorino-Romano, as I tend to prefer it)
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I used Kosher)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, sliced into a chiffonade

Directions

Set a pot of water to boil. When it boils, add a few teaspoons of salt and the pasta.

In a metal bowl wide enough to fit over the top of the pot (or glass; that’s what I used), mix together the ricotta, Parmesan, olive oil, juice and zest of lemon, salt, and black pepper. When there are about 2 minutes remaining in the pasta’s cooking time, place the bowl over the pot and slowly stir the ricotta and other ingredients. You should see it loosening as it warms.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it, add the basil to the bowl of sauce and toss with the drained pasta. Serve immediately.

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VERDICT: 3.5/5 – The flavor is pretty great, but I actually could do with more lemon.  Maybe use lemon pepper or a lemon-flavored olive oil to amp things up.  Also, while the flavor was there, the texture left me wanting.  Maybe Loverman’s usual suggestion of chicken would work, but I think also shrimp or even tempeh would be at home here.  But with the lemon, the basil, and the ricotta, this was a perfectly light meal for summer.

Here’s a question, Weekly Mackers: if I made a Twitter feed, would you follow it?  I don’t have one right now, but I’m toying with the idea.  Let me know either way!

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Recipe 61: White Truffle Macaroni and Cheese

I’ve been wanting to try this mac for a while. I found some white truffle oil at an inexpensive price, and I bought it without any clear plan for it; finding this recipe, therefore, was a godsend.

White Truffle Macaroni and Cheese (from The Curvy Carrot)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup panko – I used a combination of panko, breadcrumbs, and crushed rice/corn cereal.  Sometimes you gotta make-do.
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated – I used Pecorino
  • 1-2 tablespoons white truffle oil (to taste) – I used 2 Tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter – I use salted, I don’t think it makes a difference
  • 2 tablespoons flour – or gluten-free equivalent
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 8 ounces white cheddar cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni (or your personal favorite type of pasta) – I used corn elbows
  • Green onions, chopped, for garnish (optional) – I omitted

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (this is considered broiling).  Generously spray a 2.5-quart casserole dish with cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the panko, Parmesan and 1 tablespoon white truffle oil (if using less white truffle oil overall, use about 1/2 tablespoon here), mixing until combined.

3. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. (If you are short on time, it might be helpful at this point to get your water boiling for the macaroni.)

4. Add the flour and whisk continuously until the mixture forms a thick paste, about a minute or so.

5. Slowly whisk in the half and half until smooth (some lumps may remain-that’s ok).

6. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.

7. Using a wooden spoon, slowly add the cheeses and stir until completely melted.

8. Add the remaining truffle oil and salt and pepper, to taste.

9. Meanwhile, cook the macaroni as directed on the package.  Once cooked, drain the pasta and add it to the cheese sauce.

10.  Evenly distribute the macaroni into the prepared casserole dish and top with the panko mixture.

11.  Broil until the panko topping is lightly golden, about 3-4 minutes.  (Watch it carefully so that it doesn’t burn!)  Top with green onions (if using) and serve immediately.

My computer isn’t cooperating in regards to the image I have.  It’s a pale white mac, very loose in body.  It’s in a heather colored Fiesta bowl, if you’re interested in that.

VERDICT: 3/5.  I think this is on my personal taste. I’m not sure if it’s the white truffle oil or the fontina cheese, but this left a weird aftertaste in my mouth. Still, it’s not bad necessarily. Broiling it does nothing for the body, which was very soupy, so personally if I made this again, I wouldn’t bother with the crumb topping and would just serve it straight from the pot – so I would stop at Point Nine in the steps above . Normally I like to leave vegetarian recipes as-is, but I think this could benefit from chicken, or maybe even mushrooms.  Even without, it does have a certain earthiness that only could have come from that truffle oil.  Not a perfect recipe, but one worth trying out and impressing your friends with.  And hey, if you make any improvements to it, drop me a line!  I’d love to hear what you did.