Saturday, January 7, 2012

Recipe: Reginette Pasta tossed with Sweet Italian Sausage and Ricotta Cheese

While searching through my Pinterest "Recipes to Try" board and the latest uploads to Tastespotting, I came across this recipe for pasta "rags" with fresh ricotta and basil oil and I was instantly inspired. It offered the chance to use my beloved pasta maker and I loved the components that went into it—homemade flavored oil and fresh ricotta cheese. I opted to buy ricotta from the grocery store rather than make it from scratch, and add sweet Italian sausage to add protein and texture to the dish. Making the basil oil was so easy (and it inspired this week's upcoming "Technique Tuesday" post), but extra virgin olive oil would work just as well in this dish. Opting to cut noodles into the reginette shape (one of the "fun" cutters available on my pasta maker) rather than rough-cut "rags" made the dish a little more elegant. Reginette, a wavy-edged ribbon noodle also called mafaldine, can be tricky to find in your average grocery store, but any similarly long and wide noodle (pappardelle, fettuccine) would work. A variety of other pastas, including medium pasta shells (conchiglie) and rigatoni, could potentially work in this dish, but avoid long, thin noodles (spaghetti, angel hair, linguine).

  • 8-12 oz. reginette pasta, or other long, wide noodle of your choice
  • Approx. 1/2 - 3/4 cup ricotta cheese (enough to coat pasta), seasoned with a little salt and pepper
  • Approx. 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, crumbled (really, you'll be pulling it apart into bite-sized pieces)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste 
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Dried herbs (oregano, basil, thyme, and Italian seasoning are the best choices), to taste
  • Olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of a pan)
  • 5-8 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade cut
  • Butter (just a little to toss with the pasta)
  • Basil oil (mentioned here) or extra virgin olive oil (to coat the pasta)

Bring a medium-to-large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package instructions, until al dente. Drain it, return it to the pot, then toss it with a little butter to keep the noodles from sticking. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the sausage with a little salt, pepper, dried herbs, and crushed red pepper (just a dash of each is fine). In a large pan, heat a little olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add in the crumbled sausage and cook for about 4-5 minutes, then add in the minced garlic, and cook until the sausage is cooked through and lightly golden-brown. When the sausage is done cooking, toss it and a little basil oil or olive oil with the noodles, then spoon the ricotta into the pasta, and gently toss the mixture to combine. The ricotta is soft and easily coats the pasta, forming a sort deconstructed sauce. Toss in the fresh basil and serve.

This dish is simple, quick to make, and quite tasty. The creamy ricotta clings beautifully to the pasta noodles, and the sausage, with just a hint of heat, brighten up the softer flavors in the dish and add a little texture. Fresh basil adds color and a crisp flavor to the creaminess in the dish and make the dish complete.

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