Pasta is always a Lenten recipe favorite (March 12, 2011)

Pasta, in all its shapes and sizes, is a signature ingredient of Lenten meals around our house.

The sheer adaptability of this staple makes it a happy companion of this season of fast and abstinence. During this time of year, I enjoy remembering the Lenten pasta concoctions my mother and grandmother would whip up for Friday night meals. Mom’s macaroni and cheese with elbows and cheddar cheese topped with homemade bread crumbs was always a favorite.

Grandma’s linguini with clam sauce, white or red, was another meal we always looked foreword to.

Back then, as I recall it, the kinds of pasta you had available in the average Shore supermarket were pretty basic: linguini; spaghetti; ditalini and elbows.

These days, nothing delights me more than shopping for pasta with unusual shapes to please the eyes and taste buds of children and other guests. Wagon wheels, twisted pastas, multicolored noodles all come to the table in my house not just at Lent but throughout the year.

The most recent pasta discovery is Barilla’s cunning little pipette. Shaped like a small pipe, they make a perfect scoop for sauce or in the case of this Lenten recipe, a small pea.

This recipe – Pipettes With Peas and Ricotta Cheese – is especially appealing to children who enjoy its color and the variety of tastes – from the small, delightful peas, to some delicate onion flavor, to the creamy ricotta.

Some cooks, when making this dish, blend the peas with the ricotta in a blender or food processor, which is perfectly acceptable. But the kids really like encountering whole fresh peas in a mix with snowy ricotta and sturdy little pipettes and frankly, so do I.

One caution with the recipe. It’s very fast and easy to assemble but the success of the dish rests in mixing everything according to the exact sequence of the recipe so the hot pasta blends nicely with the cheese and onion. Pipettes With Peas and Ricotta Cheese Ingredients: — 1 ½ cups frozen peas — 2 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil — 1 medium onion, minced — 1 cup ricotta cheese — salt, pepper and parmesan cheese to taste Directions:

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta and several quarts of water to a boil in a small pot for cooking the peas.

Add the peas to the small pot of boiling water and cook for no more than one minute. Drain them and set them aside

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the onion and sauté for about seven minutes until it is lightly browned. Stir in the peas and cook for about 30 seconds.

Scrape the onions and peas into a bowl large enough to hold the pipettes when cooked and add the ricotta cheese, salt and pepper and parmesan to taste.

When the pasta water comes to a boil add a palm full of salt and cook according to package directions, then drain, reserving a ½ cup of pasta water. In the large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with the cheese sauce immediately, adding as much cooking water as needed to thin the sauce. Divide among individual bowls and serve immediately.

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