Saturday, February 11, 2012

fettucine with ricotta, baby arugula and fresh herbs

Do you ever come out of a restaurant thinking, that was alright, but I could make it better? Sometimes I find the idea of something to be so much more appetizing than what arrives at my table when eating out. Case in point, fettucine with ricotta, arugula and fresh herbs.

I can't remember the name of the restaurant I had this at. I can't even remember which fresh herbs were used. The dish was pretty forgettable. It needed salt. It was flavourless. It was just... blah. But when I had read the description on the menu, the idea of pasta tossed with fresh unripened cheese and peppery arugula, it sang to me. What could have gone wrong?

With the ingredients carefully analyzed but long forgotten, I embarked on a new adventure to take this spectacular idea and make it taste spectacular, too. In my basket went baby arugula and fresh basil. Ricotta cheese, heading into its last week before expiration, sat at the ready in my refrigerator, as did two whole bunches of parsley (whoops) and a mountain of fresh thyme. Add to those a few old rinds of cheese just begging to be used, and I had the arsenal required to blow the blah pasta dish I had so many months ago out of the water.

And this pasta left that other pasta in the dust. It was a marriage of flavours and textures. The very lightly wilted arugula still had bite. The herbs complimented the both the spiciness of the arugula and the mildness of the ricotta. The asiago and parmigiano added depth of flavour. The cracked pepper and olive oil finished it off. Gorgeous. I was in heaven! Simple to make and way too easy to eat.

If you're out for a meal somewhere on St. Denis and you spot this on the menu, save your money and make it at home. Here's how.

fettucine with ricotta, baby arugula and fresh herbs
serves 4

approximately 500g fettucine
3/4 cup ricotta cheese (I used 7%)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup pasta water
salt to taste
4 cups baby arugula
1/3 cup (heaping) roughly chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated asiago
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (plus extra for sprinkling)
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra for the final drizzle)
freshly cracked pepper

  • Cook pasta according to the directions on the box. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining.
  • In a medium bowl, toss together the arugula, basil, parsley and thyme.
  • In a small bowl, mix together ricotta, garlic and pasta water. Season with salt to taste - you'll want to be a bit generous here as the ricotta really needs some salt.
  • In the warm pasta pot, gently toss together the pasta with the ricotta mixture. Add the greens, the cheeses and the olive oil and distribute evenly using tongs.
  • Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly cracked pepper to taste.

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