This is an incredibly simple recipe that I learned while studying in Bologna last fall. We were lucky enough to take cooking lessons from a woman named Rita Mazzoli, an incredible person and a fantastic cook. These lessons were the some of the highlights of my semester, and we learned how to make everything from homemade pasta to tiramisù. However, this was one of the simplest recipes and holds true to the saying that if you use great ingredients, the simplest preparation is all you need.
However, I like to have pasta with some vegetables, so I usually add peas or other vegetables. I ate this pretty much every week in Bologna, so this time I decided to change it up a little and add some sauteed mushrooms and toasted pine nuts. However, the original preparation is beautiful in its simplicity, and makes a great first course or light dinner. The ricotta makes a deliciously creamy sauce, and the lemon zest adds just the right amount of tang.
Spaghetti alla Ricotta (serves 2)
4 oz spaghetti
1/3 cup ricotta cheese (if you can, get the real Italian kind from a deli, but the supermarket brand will do)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup Parmiggiano Reggiano, grated (you can also use cheaper parmesan, but I think that the real stuff is worth the investment)
2-3 tablespoons water
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the spaghetti al dente in a pot of boiling water, 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix all other ingredients in a medium bowl, taking care to mix thoroughly and season well. When the pasta is done boiling, add to sauce and mix. Top with more parmiggiano reggiano.
That's it. I typically add 1/4-1/3 cup of frozen peas (boiled for 2-3 minutes), and this time added some sauteed mushrooms and pine nuts, which were a nice addition. The mushrooms should be sliced thinly and sauteed in 1 tablespoon of olive oil with a little salt and pepper, for about seven minutes. The pine nuts can be toasted in a sauté pan over medium heat for 5 minutes or so, or roasted in the oven at 375 for 7-8 minutes.