Sometimes I feel like I’m on a game show entitled: Take These Random Ingredients And Try To Make A Meal. The show takes place on Friday nights when the star (me) arrives in her weekend house with the following:
- A few items she grabbed at the last minute as she was leaving her home in Rome
- Items her house guests brought along, so they wouldn’t go bad over the weekend
- Odds and ends she had left in the weekend house thinking ‘these will come in handy’ (a.k.a. pasta)
- Fresh cheeses she picked up at a store on the side of the highway (at least there’s that)
- Possibly something growing in the vegetable garden (this is the joker card, you just never know)
And the winning dish this week is (I always win, since I am the only person participating in this game show): Pasta with Zucchini, Ricotta and Rosemary.
Yes, I could have pretended that this was a well-thought out dish. And that I fully intended not to include any garlic or parmesan cheese. And that I wanted to devise a dish around 8 small, slightly-worse-for-the-wear-looking zucchini bought ten days ago at the Farmer’s market by my house guest.
But really? It was lunch time and that was all their was.
The dish doesn’t really sound like much, but even I have to admit it was a winner. Rather than try to saute the zucchini, hoping they wouldn’t turn into mush, I embraced their less-than-crisp-state by slicing them and adding them to the boiling pasta water at the very last minute. They added moisture to a dish that was really only going to be dressed with the small cup of fresh buffalo milk ricotta I’d picked up at the roadside store in Orte.
And since I had neither garlic nor hard cheese to add punch, I decided to add a whammy of flavor by using an extraordinary amount of just-picked rosemary. This time of year the rosemary is beginning to sprout new leaves, which are sticky with their piney sap. So strong was the rosemary flavor that it really does deserve to be named in the title of the recipe.
In addition to a tiny onion that I found in the house, I also was able to pick a huge bunch of chives in the garden. They flavored the ricotta beautifully. And the tiny purple chive blossoms that had just started to bloom? Like any cooking show winner I artfully arranged them on each plate because, you know, garnish is important too.
- ½ kilo / 1 pound pasta
- ½ kilo / 1 pound small zucchini, but into ¼ inch slices
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil plus more
- 1 small onion, chopped
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 cup ricotta
- ½ cup chopped fresh chives
- salt, pepper
- Chop the rosemary, using a mezzaluna or a knife. The trick is to chop the rosemary pretty finely.
- Add the chopped chives and freshly ground pepper to the ricotta, and stir well. Place in a large serving bowl that you will use to serve the pasta.
- Pour the olive oil into a large enough pan to fit in the cooked pasta later. Heat over a medium flame. Add the chopped onion, some salt, and let cook for about 8 minutes, till softened. Add the rosemary and let cook until it becomes fragrant, about 8 more minutes. But don’t let it brown, or it will become bitter. Turn off heat.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Add the pasta and cook until it is about 5 minutes away from being done. Add the zucchini, bring back to a boil, and finish cooking.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
- Turn on the heat under the rosemary oil, and add the pasta and zucchini, stirring well to let the pasta become fully flavored with the oil.
- Add the pasta water to the ricotta, a bit at a time, stirring to mix. How much water you use will depend on how dry or wet your ricotta is. You want it to be creamy, sort of the consistency of pancake batter.
- Add the pasta to the bowl, mix well, and serve.