Monday, September 20, 2010

Ricotta Spinach Pesto Pasta

My mom is an extraordinary cook so, naturally, I look forward to my trips home. This past July was one of those times. Per usual, I packed at the eleventh hour, got little to no sleep and showed up on the east coast like death warmed over. Mom, being the nurturing type that she is, made sure to have a light meal ready. Enter this pasta dish.

Originally printed in the August 2004 issue of Cuisine at Home, this is admittedly the type of recipe I would overlook. Pasta? Pesto? Been there, done that. But this one is a touch different. 

In addition to the usual suspects, this particular pesto contains fresh spinach, lemon zest and freshly squeezed lemon juice. It's then tossed with hot pasta, corn and green beans (yes, corn and green beans! Crazy!) and a healthy dose of ricotta cheese. And for a little acid, the whole shebang is topped with vinegared tomatoes. The result? A protein- and fiber-packed flavor explosion. It's really addictive, and even tastes delicious cold (read: packs great for lunch the next day).

Pasta with Vegetables and Ricotta Spinach Pesto Recipe
Any type of pasta can be used here (I used brown rice fusilli). If you don’t have any nuts on hand, they can easily be omitted from the pesto. Adapted from Cuisine at Home|August 2004.

For the pesto:

2 cups fresh spinach, tightly packed
1 cup fresh basil, tightly packed 

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 
1/4 cup pine nuts, almonds or walnuts, toasted
2 tablespoons lemon zest 

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons kosher salt 

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

12 oz. dry pasta of choice (I like fusilli with all its crevices)
2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 cups green beans, fresh or frozen (if fresh, trimmed and cut in half)
2 cups ricotta cheese

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (or regular tomatoes seeded and diced)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & pepper

Parmesan cheese for garnish

Place all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth. 

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to package directions. If you’re using frozen corn and green beans, add them to the pasta during the last minute of cooking. If using fresh, add them 2-3 minutes before the pasta is finished. Drain.

Place the ricotta cheese in the bottom of a large pasta bowl; season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the pasta, vegetables and spinach pesto; toss well.

In a mixing bowl, toss the tomatoes with the white wine vinegar, olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Spoon on top of the pasta. Garnish the entire dish with shaved Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

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