Lemon Ricotta Fiesta Pasta

Story by Karyl Henry, KarylsKulinaryKrusade.com

As soon as the weather starts to warm up I go into lighter recipe mode. I’m all in for recipes that use fresh spring and summer vegetables, and easy dishes I can enjoy throughout the summer months.

I start making Corn, Zucchini, and Red Pepper Cakes as soon as fresh corn is readily available. Farro with Spring Vegetables is my take on a dish I saw Trisha Yearwood make on The Food Network. And wonton wrappers are the key to my Spinach Ravioli with Asparagus Garlic Butter Sauce.

I actually haven’t done a great job of creating spring recipes, so it’s high time to change that. I’ve also been trying to come up with more ways to use ricotta cheese, so I created Lemon Ricotta Fiesta Pasta.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

  • It’s easy to make, and on the table in under 30 minutes
  • The lemon ricotta sauce is very flavorful, yet tastes light
  • You can easily customize the ingredients to your preference

INGREDIENT TIPS FOR LEMON RICOTTA FIESTA PASTA

I love the salty bite that Pancetta adds to this dish. Skip the thin-sliced pancetta. Instead, buy a chunk from the deli counter, and dice it into 1/4″ pieces.

Pancetta has much less fat than bacon, so cook the pancetta in a little bit of oil. This helps the pancetta get golden brown, and not burn.

Cook the vegetables in the reserved fat, to absorb the beautiful flavor. Don’t add any more oil, or the vegetables will get greasy and heavy.

I use asparagus and frozen peas as my green veggies. You can find fresh asparagus pretty much year-round, but I’ve never found fresh peas in my grocery store. I keep a bag of frozen peas on hand at all times, and they thaw in minutes.

Use a short-cut curly pasta, so the sauce clings to every crevice. My preference is cellentani, but orecchiette is another good option.

I add fresh grape or cherry tomatoes to the Lemon Ricotta Fiesta Pasta just before serving. The tomatoes add a pop of fresh flavor to the dish.

LEMON RICOTTA SAUCE

For a long time, I wasn’t a fan of fresh lemon, because it has such a strong bite. But when it’s used in moderation, it really brightens dishes and adds wonderful flavor.

I don’t like sauces to overpower a dish, so this lemon ricotta sauce is perfect. Ricotta and fresh lemon are both light and they complement the other ingredients really well.

Yes, you’re going to need to be generous with the oil for this sauce, because it helps to break down the ricotta and make it creamy. But the sauce doesn’t taste oily or heavy.

You really need to use whole milk ricotta for Lemon Ricotta Fiesta Pasta. I tried it with part-skim, but the consistency wasn’t creamy enough.

Lemon Ricotta Fiesta Pasta from KarylsKulinaryKrusade.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 ounces Cellentani pasta (or any short-cut pasta)
  • 2/3 cup Pancetta, diced into 1/4″ cubes
  • 2 teaspoons avocado oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 asparagus spears, ends discarded, spears cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced, for garnish

LEMON RICOTTA SAUCE

  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • 1/4 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  2. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. Reserve fat in skillet.
  3. Put the skillet on another burner and allow it to cool for 2 minutes.
  4. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Toss in asparagus and cook for 5 minutes. Add peas and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Transfer vegetable mixture to a bowl.
  7. Add 1/4 cup avocado oil to the skillet over medium heat.
  8. Add ricotta and whisk slowly to melt into the oil.
  9. Add lemon juice and zest, plus 2 Tablespoons pasta water, salt, and pepper.
  10. Return the vegetables to the skillet, along with drained pasta and tomatoes. Stir to combine.
  11. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with pancetta and fresh grated Parmesan. Garnish with parsley and serve.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What if I don’t like pancetta? Substitute thick-cut bacon or turkey bacon. Or, for a vegetarian option, use veggie bacon or no meat at all.

Can I use other vegetables? Use green beans, snow peas, zucchini, or even baby spinach. If you use spinach, add it for just the last 1-2 minutes of cooking, until wilted.

What other tomatoes work? I’ve used sun-dried tomatoes. If you use the ones in oil, drain them well and pat dry before adding to the skillet. Roasted grape/cherry tomatoes would be another great option.