Thursday, January 12, 2012

Recipe: Mezze Penne with a Creamy Spinach-Ricotta Sauce

After a long morning in the bake shop for class, mixing and kneading basic white bread by hand and learning my way around a proofer and a rotating rack oven, I was absolutely exhausted...I got home, ate leftover mac&cheese, and then promptly fell asleep for about three hours. All my grand plans of going to the bank, shopping at Target, packing for my trip this weekend—it was all for naught. I woke up around 6:00, hungry and in no mood to go out, and I wanted to make something quick and easy for dinner. In an effort to clean out the fridge a bit, I decided to use up the baby spinach I used earlier in the week for my rice dish and the ricotta I'd used in my reginette pasta dish and work them into some sort of sauce. To be perfectly honest, I didn't measure anything—I was cooking just for myself, but I ended up with about 1 cup of sauce, which should serve 2-4 (really, it should be enough to serve 4) when mixed in with pasta. If you find you don't have enough, just add more spinach and ricotta, and adjust the seasonings accordingly (really, just add a little more salt and pepper).

Serves: 2-4
Prep. time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Special equipment: Food processor


  • Approx. 1 cup baby spinach, packed (push down as many leaves into the cup as you can)
  • Approx. 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-5 leaves basil, chiffonade cut (I didn't have fresh, so I added a sprinkling of dried basil)
  • Approx. 1/4 cup grated/shredded Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • Approx. 2-4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (salt is important in this sauce, because it helps elevate the flavors, which will decrease slightly when the sauce is spread throughout the pasta)
  • 8-12 oz. mezze penne or other pasta of your choice (this sauce would work with just about any type of pasta)

In a food processor, combine the spinach, ricotta, garlic, basil, Parmesan/Pecorino-Romano, olive oil, salt and pepper, and pulse to blend. The mixture will blend into a thick, creamy, pale green sauce. In the meantime, bring a medium-to-large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, then add the pasta and cook according to package instructions (about 8-11 minutes). Drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and toss it with the sauce. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano cheese.

This sauce is incredibly easy to make and takes just a few minutes to blend. It's got a light flavor and creamy texture that makes it perfect on just about any pasta, and it could even work as a spread or dip. This dish in particular would be a more filling meal with the addition of seared or grilled chicken or shrimp (but, since I was solo tonight, I didn't want to bother with a protein). If you want to experiment a bit, try adding a little lemon zest to the sauce to boost the flavor, or add a pinch of dried oregano or other Italian herb.

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