Fresh ricotta is a wonderful, underappreciated ingredient. If you can find rennet, it’s easy enough to make yourself, but in Philadelphia we are blessed with Claudio’s, a glorious cheesemaker that sells fresh ricotta for the bargain basement price of $2.99 a pound. (Oddly enough, they don’t mention the fresh cheese on their Web site, but trust me, it’s there). It’s so delicious that one of the best things you can do with it is simply to eat it, plain, on bruschetta or pizza. If you want to get a little more ambitious, it makes a fantastic creamy pasta sauce.
Penne with Fresh Ricotta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
1 pound dry penne, or fresh pasta of your choice
1 pound fresh ricotta, or less, to taste
1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes, preferably cherry tomatoes you’ve dried yourself
1/2 c. parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
1) Bring a big pot of water to boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, soak the tomatoes in about a cup of boiling water. When they’re flexible , drain them, reserving the water to thin the sauce later. Cut into thin strips.
2) Combine the cheese, tomatoes, and parsley.
3) Cook the pasta until it’s as tender as you’d like it (al dente is nice, as the sauce is so creamy and mild), then drain. Return the pasta to the cooking pot along with the cheese combination and the sun-dried tomato water. Toss everything, and add some olive oil if it’s too dry. Add salt and pepper to taste.
As you might guess from the ingredients, this is a pretty rich dish, so a little goes a long way. You’ll want to eat more,though. If I ever manage to track down an affordable pastry mat to cover my countertop tiles, I’ll get back in the habit of making my own pasta…