Lemon Dressed Pasta with Ricotta, Spinach and Roasted Tomatoes

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 You’ll always remember the moment you discover the wonders of ricotta cheese. Not just something that hides inside lasagna or inside of a ravioli. I went to California for my birthday this past December, to visit my best friend. Before I (or any friend) go on a trip, I like to do food research. One of my joys in life is discovering the best food in any area, making it into a list, and trying every place. One place in LA I was hearing great things about was Sqirl. A tiny cafe near downtown Los Angeles, that will completely knock your socks off. They are most famous for their brioche toast. A charred thick cut of homemade brioche, topped with homemade creamy ricotta, piled with a seasonal jam. I just have to include this photo from my trip, so you can understand.

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*Pausing for reaction* RIGHT? I was skeptical at first, so foolish, then this was put down and I was silenced. My days of hiding ricotta were over, it deserved to be front and center. I recreated this for a recent brunch, see here. Even though on toast with some sort of fruit will always be my favorite way to eat ricotta, on top of pasta is my very close second. I discovered this combination shortly after thanks to my beloved Food52.

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I saw many recipes using the technique of mixing ricotta into a pasta. I was so intrigued. I tried it and was changed. I decided to match it with lemon juice to punch it up. Then add some more elements; vegetables. I started by softening some onions in butter, mainly because it’s my favorite smell in the world. I roasted grape tomatoes on high heat to bring out the flavor. I wilted some spinach.  Then, came the ricotta.

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Most say, homemade ricotta is the only way to go. I do not argue with them, it is so good. I happen to buy a brand of ricotta I think tastes just as good. It is ‘Calabro’s Whole Milk Ricotta’, but I can only find it at Whole Foods. I was not able to go to Whole Foods this week, so I decided I would make it at home. I had cheese cloth, why not? It was not hard, it just took some time. This is something to do on your day off. Find the recipe I used, here. If you don’t have the time or the patience, just go buy the store brand ricotta I mentioned, you’ll be just as happy.

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This is a real crowd pleaser. Use it to make yourself or your ricotta hiding friends change their ways. Serve it with an extra dollop of ricotta on top, for good measure.

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Lemon Dressed Pasta with Ricotta, Spinach and Roasted Tomatoes

serves 3 as main, 4 as appetizer

  • 1/2 pound spaghetti, linguine, or any other long pasta you’d like
  • 1 small onion, small rough chop
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 packed cups spinach, washed and drained
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup good ricotta cheese, a little extra for plating

Tomatoes

  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • pinch of kosher salt and black pepper
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Meanwhile, wash and dry the tomatoes. In a small bowl, add the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper to coat the tomatoes evenly. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. When oven is ready, cook for 20 minutes. Set aside.
  2. While the tomatoes are in the oven, fill up a medium pot with water. Add a generous “pinch” of kosher salt. You want it to taste like sea water. Set on high. When boiling, add pasta and turn down to medium-high. Cook until al dente.
  3. In a medium skillet, melt the butter oven medium-low. Once melted, add the onion. Saute until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. When done, put on a plate and set aside. In the same pan, add the olive oil, garlic, and spinach over medium-low. Mix so spinach is coated. Cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the onions to the spinach, and mix. Take off the burner, and reserve until pasta is done.
  4. After the pasta is drained, add it to the spinach and onion mixture. Mix until well combined. Add the lemon juice, mix. Then add the ricotta cheese, mix.
  5. Serve the pasta with a few tomatoes on each plate. Add a dollop of ricotta on top. Enjoy.

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