Pasta dishes are one of my favourite dishes to make. I love to infuse a variety of ingredients, making different dishes to avoid being the same old pasta with sugo, which I still love to eat by the way. They also don’t take very long to make, usually the ingredients can be prepared and ready while the pasta is boiling.
There are a number of things that I love about this asparagus ricotta dish. The crispiness of the asparagus combined with sweet peas and the creaminess of the ricotta, without the heaviness.
Why fresh ricotta? Ricotta is lighter in fat, but still rich in calcium and protein. It also contains less sodium, making it a better choice for those who might have particular health issues. I prefer ricotta over Alfredo sauce because I am not left with feeling so heavy after eating a full plate. Alfredo sauce, at least for me, is one of those ingredients that after a few bites I don’t want anymore because it is just so heavy. If the ricotta flavour is too bland for some, combine with parmigiano to add more saltiness to your dish.
Fry a little lemon zest with olive oil. This will infuse the lemon flavour into the oil. You can even add some of the lemon juice too.
When blanching asparagus here are a few tips to consider:
- peeling the exterior will get rid of the fibrous outer layer, some kids might find it hard to chew.
- if you are leaving them whole, they don’t need more than 4 minutes in boiling water. If you choose to cut prior to boiling, I would cut the time in the water by half.
- make sure your water is very salty, think ocean water. They are not submerged in it for very long to absorb all that salt.
- You don’t have to place the asparagus in ice cold water to stop the cooking process, especially if you plan to consume them right away. I usually set them aside on my pastry board and then place them into the pasta once it is ready.
On hot summer days, dishes like these are lighter and fresher to eat over a plate of pasta with sugo.
Spaghetti with Ontario Asparagus, Peas and Ricotta.
- 1 pkg. of spaghetti -Follow cooking instructions on pkg.
- 250 g. fresh ricotta (about half a small container)
- 1 medium lemon, zested.
- 1/2 bundle of fresh asparagus
- 1/2 cup of fresh peas or frozen peas-cooked. (optional)
- approx. 3 tbsp olive oil (for sautéing and as finishing oil)
- 1/4 cup of parmigiana reggiano.
- 2 garlic cloves, cut into thin slices.
- Place a medium size pot with water on the stove for the pasta and a smaller pot for the asparagus -don’t forget to salt asparagus water generously once it boils.
- While water is heating up, prepare asparagus. Cut or break off ends of the asparagus, peel the outer layer (optional) and cut into smaller pieces.
- Salt water and add pasta to boiling water (most spaghetti packages I use are about 7-10 minutes)
- Add asparagus into salty boiling water, and let it boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- In a large frying pan, add 1 tbsp of olive oil, garlic shavings and about 1/4 lemon zest.
- Once the garlic and lemon zest are frying (if it is ready before pasta is done, set aside to avoid burning the garlic), add the cooked pasta into the pan and combine.
- Add in a couple of scoops of pasta water into the pan to provide flavour and avoid the pasta sticking to the pan.
- Add the ricotta, by breaking off small pieces and combine allowing it to melt into the pasta. I like to keep a few pieces to finish off the dish at the end.
- Combine asparagus and peas (optional) into the pasta.
- Add the parmigiana and lemon zest and a little olive oil to finish off the dish.
- (Optional) Top off with some garden herbs, fresh basil or parsley works great.