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Posts Tagged ‘Ricotta’

There’s no easy way to put this, so I’m just going to come out and say it: I have a massive crush on Lidia Bastianich.

Yes, she is 63 years old. Yes, her show on PBS lacks the glossy finesse of shows on the Food Network. And no, she isn’t afraid of cheese or butter. But I love her approach to cooking, and her latest cookbook is full of so many easy, approachable recipes that I’ve barely touched another cookbook since I bought it.

The opening to each chapter of the book reads like a memoir with a dash of cultural history.  This pasta recipe, for example, comes from the Abruzzo region of Italy, and we learn at the beginning of the chapter that it was here that Lidia met the so-called “madman of cheese,” who makes the best pecorino and ricotta she’s ever eaten.  Her voice is so conversational and passionate that I eat up her narrative just as fast as I eat up her food.

Not all of the recipes are simple.  There’s the Ligurian “Cima” (veal breast stuffed with eggs and vegetables) and all sorts of homemade pastas.  But then there are recipes like this one — Farro Pasta with Arugula and Ricotta — that take minimal effort and yield delicious results.

The key to this dish — and many of the recipes in her book — is using top-notch ingredients: fresh ricotta, good olive oil and tender arugula, the latter of which seems to be all over the farmers’ market these days.  Another important ingredient is the farro pasta, a favorite in the Abruzzo region, which you can find at some Whole Foods markets and online (I used whole-grain VitaSpelt spaghetti, which is similar to farro pasta).

The dish is so simple — it requires almost no cooking — and yet the results are wonderful.  The nutty farro, creamy ricotta, peppery arugula, and salty pecorino come together in what ends up being a filling and nutritious country-style meal.  I bet if you make this, you’ll end up having a crush on Lidia too.

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I’m not exactly sure when my love affair with ricotta cheese began, but I’m pretty sure it dates back to my infancy. Occasionally for breakfast, my mother would whip up a mixture of ricotta cheese and powdered sugar, and by all accounts, I used to wolf the confection down like an eating machine. Can you blame me? She was basically serving me a baby-proof cannoli for breakfast.

As I grew older, I somehow shifted my affections from sweet ricotta recipes to savory ones, most of which involved pasta and red sauce: ravioli, manicotti, my Aunt Robin’s stuffed shells. Make no mistake: My family is not Italian. We are, apparently, a bunch of ricotta loving Jews. But ethnicity aside, I loved the taste of the soft, mellow cheese up against the tangy tomato sauce.

Many years later, I’ve returned to my sweet-ricotta-for-breakfast roots. But seeing as I now have teeth, I’ve updated the recipe. It couldn’t be simpler, really: fresh, crusty bread topped with ricotta and drizzled with honey. I like to use bread that’s chock full of goodies, something like a cranberry walnut loaf (if you’re in DC, get thee to the Penn Quarter farmer’s market) or this homemade granola bread.

The recipe for this bread is of the no-knead variety, which makes it a snap to throw together. Yes, the no-knead concept has become a little gimmicky, and I will never jettison old school kneaded bread, but just because something is gimmicky doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Studded with granola and perfumed with honey and cinnamon, this bread smells divine as it bakes. Throw some fresh ricotta and honey into the mix and Installment #2 of the “Breakfast Series” might be one of my favorite weekday breakfasts ever.

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