transitional food: Pasta with Ricotta, Arugula (or Spinach) and Basil

Finally some cooler weather seems to be settling in after a very summery Summer.  It hasn't really rained here since July, but of course rain is finally predicted and expected (those are two very different things, by the way, Mr. Weatherman) tomorrow morning for our first tailgate.  Regardless, we forge ahead testing the new anniversary tailgate grill, packing the tailgate basics box, bringing home massive quantities of food to prep and the whole delightful lot.

With all eyes on Saturday, it was a week of easy meals including this pasta dish from the June/July issue of Fine Cooking.  This was my first attempt at cooking with arugula and if you aren't sure you like the sharpness of that particular green, use baby spinach instead like I have always done until this point.  I have watered my basil once or twice a day for six weeks (do or die this year) so I still have a healthy supply.  I served the pasta with a little flank steak and cherry tomatoes roasted in a pan on the grill.  The tomatoes on the plate with the pasta make a lovely combination.  A little heartier fare for the cooler weather transitioning the way for warm Fall food.  Enjoy!

I would be remiss if I didn't throw in a "Boiler Up!" and "Go Colts" for the weekend!  Tailgate posts next week!
Cooking today:  breakfast casserole, queso, guacamole and caramelized onions for burgers.
Baking today:  peanut butter cookies with peanut butter/chocolate chip filling, coffee cake.
Prepping today:  fruit and vegetables.  Dinner tonight?  Greek Fest!

creamy goodness

Pasta with Ricotta, Arugula (or Spinach) and Basil

1 lb. dried pasta:  penne, orecchiette, or campanelle
8 oz. ricotta (low fat is fine, obviously whole milk would be creamier)
1 oz. (about 1 C) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (buy the big wedge at Costco)
2 T olive oil
2 tsp grated lemon zest ( one lemon)
5 oz. (about 6 C) loosely packed baby arugula or spinach
1 1/2 oz. (about 2 C) loosely packed and coarsely chopped basil

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.  Cook the pasta until al dente as directed on the package.  Reserve about a 1/2 cup of cooking water before draining the pasta.  (note:  leave a liquid measuring cup with a ladle in it next to the cooking pasta so you don't forget and pour all the useful water down the drain).  Drain the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking mix the ricotta, Parmigiano, 1 T of the olive oil, lemon zest and 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in a large serving bowl.

Heat the remaining 1 T of olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the arugula/spinach and basil along with 1/2 tsp salt and cook, tossing the greens with tongs (get the nice silicone tipped tongs, don't ruin your pan), until just wilted (about 3 minutes). Transfer the greens mixture into the serving bowl with the cheese mixture and mix well.

Add the hot pasta to the serving bowl with the cheese and greens and toss to coat.  Add some of the reserved cooking liquid as needed to moisten the pasta.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with additional grated Parmigiano if desired.

Serves 4 to 6

beautiful cherry tomatoes from my in-laws, thanks!

Grill Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

pint of cherry tomatoes, washed, dried and halved
1-2 T olive oil or garlic olive oil
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, stripped and chopped (about 2 T)
6 sprigs of fresh thyme, stripped and chopped  (about 1 T)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Place all ingredients in a shallow grill roasting pan (mine is about 8 x 8 solid aluminum with little handles).  Roast on a medium hot grill 10-15 minutes until tomatoes burst and caramelize a bit, stirring occasionally.  If you don't halve the tomatoes, they will burst when you stick your fork in them to eat and that's maybe not a desirable outcome.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed (i.e. this is my "recipe" and I started low on the seasoning since I do not measure very often).  If you don't use garlic olive oil (I have a nice garlic grilling oil from Joe's Butcher Shop), you might want to mince a clove or two of garlic to the pan.


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