Friday, March 18, 2011

Ricotta Floats in a Sea of Peas

After another one of my recipes, for shredded carrot and parsnip curry soup, was awarded an editor's pick on the food52 site, my daughter and I decided to try in earnest to enter a winning recipe for the ongoing contest for a recipe involving fresh ricotta. My daughter reasoned that the most delicious food in the world is fresh pasta (she is an expert pasta maker), so we started from there. One of my favorite quick pasta dishes by Marcella Hazan involves stirring pasta with fresh ricotta, peas and bacon. These ingredients were the inspiration for a meal of deconstructed ravioli in a pea sauce with prosciutto garnish. Although the dish sounds pretty posh, it was actually simple enough to pull off on a weeknight with my husband out of town, aided by my accomplished seven year old sous chef, and several engrossing Thomas the Tank Engine episodes for my three year old son.

While my daughter rolled out the pasta,

I sauteed some frozen peas and fresh chives in butter (fresh peas would be lovely, but one can only dream about them at this point in the year).

I pureed these with plenty of fresh parsley and some lemon juice. The flavor was nice and bright with a pleasant sweetness. The consistency was a little thicker than I would have liked, and later when preparing a second helping, I experimented with thinning the pea sauce with a little water, which I would recommend.

When the pasta was rolled out thin enough, we cut the sheets into approximately 4 by 4 inch sheets and cooked them quickly in rapidly boiling water.

Meanwhile, I prepared a garnish of prosciutto squares sauteed in a little butter with lemon zest. Then we assembled everything, including the key ingredient of fresh ricotta.

In the end my daughter decided to eat her pasta plain with olive oil and fresh parmesan cheese, although she did have a bite of the pea sauce and prosciutto garnish and deemed them "okay". My three year old son, a committed carnivore, devoured several slices of prosciutto before I noticed what was happening, and then had no interest in pasta. I thought the dish was delicious. We'll see what the judges think.

Fresh Pasta Ricotta Floats in a Sea of Peas
For the pasta:
  • eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup water, or more as needed
  • olive oil
For the sauce and garnish:
  • 3 cups fresh shelled peas or a 10 ounce bag of frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divide use
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • slices prosciutto
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • plenty of fresh ground pepper
  • salt to taste

    1. Prepare the pasta dough in a food processor by mixing together the flour, eggs, and salt. Gradually add water until the dough just starts to come together into a ball. Gather the dough and slice it into approximately 12 slices. Roll out using a hand crank pasta maker or by hand, until the dough is the desired thinness. Cut the strips of dough into approximately 4 inch square pieces, but don't worry about the ragged edges.
    2. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add the fresh pasta squares. Allow the water to come back to a boil and cook for about one minute, tasting a corner to check that it is has the desired bite. Drain the pasta and drizzle on a little olive oil to prevent the squares from sticking to each other.
    3. While the pasta water is heating, prepare the pea sauce. Heat a skillet and melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter. When the butter is foaming, add the peas, salt and pepper, and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the fresh chopped chives and stir for another minute. Add 1/2 cup water and cook until the peas are soft. If using frozen peas, they will be almost done when you add the water, but fresh peas will need to simmer a little longer. Remove the peas from the heat. In a food processor, chop the parsley leaves and lemon juice. Add the cooked peas and process into a smooth, runny paste. You may need to add a little more water to achieve the right consistency. Return the sauce to the skillet to keep warm. Adjust seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or lemon juice to taste.
    4. Prepare the prosciutto garnish. Cut the prosciutto into approximately 1/2 inch pieces. Heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a small skillet and when it is foaming, add the prosciutto, a generous grinding of pepper, and the lemon zest. Separate the prosciutto pieces and cook for about 5 minutes until they become crispy. Remove from heat.
    5. In pre-warmed pasta bowls, assemble the floats. Ladle in the pea sauce (heat it up for a moment before serving if it's cooled down). Layer on 3 or 4 pasta squares per plate and top each with a generous dollop of fresh ricotta (you'll have some leftover pasta for seconds). Sprinkle on the crispy prosciutto, and serve at once. 


Renee said...

Oh, I'm so excited! You mean one day my daughter will actually be HELPFUL in the kitchen. I let you help now, but it's often more work than help. But it's fun and I know it's good exposure for her. Homemade pasta intimidates me. You'll have to teach me that one.

Karen said...

Thanks Renee! We didn't win the contest with this recipe, but we had a lot of fun, and we'd love to give you guys a lesson in pasta making sometime.

Anna said...

I love the fact that the dish had something for everyone. Your description was hilarious!