Thursday, May 21, 2009

Penne with Ricotta and Pine Nuts

I still had some pine nuts left after using a handful in that Browned Butter Gnocchi dish last week and I thought this Penne with Ricotta and Pine Nuts sounded like a good plan to make for dinner tonight. I did make quite a few changes to this recipe though as it read a little light on the seasonings to me when I was going over it.

While I was waiting on the whole-wheat pasta to cook, I took the olive oil called for in the original recipe and heated it with minced garlic to give it a boost. When the garlic had mellowed out, off heat I stirred in a few spoonfuls of thawed pesto I had languishing in the freezer to get them used up. By the time I was done with that, the pasta had just a couple minutes left until it was ready and that's when we added a mess of baby spinach to quickly wilt down.

Once drained, we dropped the pasta and spinach back into the same pot and stirred in that garlic-y, pesto infused warm olive oil. There was enough dressing to coat the pasta for us, but if you like your pasta a bit more saucy, hold back some of the starchy cooking liquid before you drain it off the pasta and use that to thin out the oil mixture. Give it a quick taste right away and season with a little extra salt and pepper if needed - our pesto was already seasoned well, but I felt it still needed a touch to highlight the lighter notes.

In the time it took for me to place a skillet into the sink, Jeff had already swiped his plate from the kitchen island and was about to dive right in! "Hey, not yet - I'm not done!!" is the only thing I could manage to say. It would have probably been fine as is, but I still had a couple of important elements to work in! A dollop of smooth ricotta cheese, strewn with flecks of crushed red pepper for kick, was placed in the center of the pasta, along with a shower of Parmesan and those buttery toasted pine nuts for crunch.

I wasn't sure about that ricotta dollop in the center, but I found myself rather enjoying being able to take what I wanted from that creamy spot with each forkful, rather than having it tossed with the pasta! Ready with very little prep, I was very happy that we went ahead with the added garlic and pesto! I don't think this dish would have necessary been bland without those changes, but Jeff and I felt that it helped round out the simpler flavors with a slightly more complex edge.


  1. beautiful photo. and so yummy looking

  2. Okay, so you must understand, I'm not a big pasta girl. Yes, some people live for pasta, but not me. Don't get me wrong; I love lasagna, and I love gnocchi. But, plain ole pasta doesn't do much for me. That is, until I see this dish. Ricotta and pine nuts?! Oh how you tempt me!! You have me craving some pasta!!

  3. Anon - Thanks!

    Elyse - It was certainly a nice change from your everyday pasta!