Thursday, April 22, 2010

Springtime Pasta (with Leeks and Ricotta)

This recipe is adapted from Almost Vegetarian--a great & easy cookbook for people who eat chicken & meat, but mainly vegetarian meals.

The original recipe called for gnocchi, but when I took my stored gnocchi out, I realized they had gone bad (wheat and other whole grain products tend to go rancid quicker than white-flour products). So, orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta), imported from Italy, fit the bill quite nicely. I added peas because we needed another vegetable and they still symbolize spring to me. As you can see from my meal-preparation style, I believe a recipe to be only outstanding, if it can tolerate a few tweaks. On first bite, my husband said, "I LOVE celery"--so I hope you do too, although I tasted the buttery and mild leeks more than I did the celery.

Somehow I think Giada de Laurentis would approve of this meal....I can just see the end clip of her show as she sits in a sunlit piazza eating this pasta (yeah right, she doesn't eat!) with a glass of pinot grigio at her table (feel free to insert yourself in the picture).


1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 small leeks, cleaned & coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
Salt & lots of crushed black pepper (according to your taste)
1 1/2 lb. cooked gnocchi or 1/2 lb. pasta-about 8-9 oz (I obviously used smaller sized pasta)
2 cups ricotta cheese (part-skim is fine)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (I had some wonderful Grano Padano, that my parents recently brought back from Italy, insead)
1/2 package frozen peas (I think this comes out to about 8 oz)
Minced fresh chives

Prepare the peas according to the package directions.

In a large skillet, heat together the butter and olive oil. Add the leeks, carrots, and celery over medium-heat. Add 1/2 cup of the broth and salt and pepper and continue to saute, adding more as the liquid is absorbed, until the leeks become very soft (about 25 minutes). Feel free to walk away & come back at intervals to check on the vegetables or work on the pasta (see next paragraph)--a person with small children can't very well stand by the stove the entire time!

Gently mix in the ricotta and Parmesan (or other hard Italian cheese) to the vegetables. Fold in the cooked peas.

If using pasta, cook according to package directions. If using gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat and add salt when water boils. Add gnocchi and cook until they rise to the surfact (sign they are "done"). Reserve a bit of pasta water. Drain.

Add the pasta water to the ricotta mixture and gently stir (I'm leaving it to your discretion here to use as much as you'd wish, as we all like our sauces differently).

Mix in the cooked pasta or spoon pasta into prepared bowl & pour sauce over the pasta.

Top each bowl with freshly minced chives.

Serves 4-6.

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