I came into an inordinate amount of ricotta last week. Tubs worth, really. Some from Di Palo, some of this stuff. How on earth do I work my way through it all?* Short of making ricotta cheesecake (because I just don't feel like cheesecake in November, do you?), I've been throwing spoons of ricotta in with our weekly pasta, mixing it up for a creamy, rich sauce. This works well if the pasta is dressed with a very simple tomato sauce (seriously simple: a clove of garlic, some canned tomatoes, a bit of salt, a line of olive oil and maybe some basil, if you've got it, if not, none).
The other night, though, we were out of canned tomatoes and a pathetic pile of kale sat in the fridge, staring up at me balefully every time I opened the door. Okay, I thought. I might as well do some clean-up cooking. That kale isn't going to eat itself.
So I braised the kale (using this technique, sans vinegar, or you could use this one) and boiled some tagliatelle (penne, too, would be nice here). I spooned some of the thick and fluffy ricotta curds into a bowl and then stirred in the hot kale. The starchy pasta water worked as a thinner - you want the ricotta and kale to be saucy without being soupy. You know?
What's important here is the seasoning: if you don't salt properly, the pasta water and the kale, I mean, you risk ending up with a dish that's quite bland and forgettable. You need the salt for this to work, and then the ricotta smooths out all the rough edges of the gently sulfurous kale and slicks the chewy pasta with a nice, creamy finish.
We ate this right up, no leftovers, and Ben kept doing that thing where he nods and murmurs with his mouth full and points at his plate with his fork repeatedly, brow furrowed in delight, looking mightily approving.
* Seriously, I've still got more ricotta in the fridge than I know what to do with. What's your favorite way of using up ricotta? Other than in lasagna.
Tagliatelle with Braised Kale and Ricotta
Serves 2 to 4
1 bunch of kale (curly, Tuscan, what have you)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and red pepper flakes
2/3 cup fresh ricotta
Enough pasta for two people (I used about 8 ounces of dried tagliatelle)
1. Wash the kale, strip the leaves off the ribs, chop the kale into ribbons and put them in a pot with olive oil and garlic, some salt and a few grinds of red pepper flakes. Cook over low heat, uncovered, for 10 minutes, until the kale is good and wilted.
2. Add a cup of water, partially cover the pot and let it cook for another half hour. In the meantime, put the ricotta in a serving dish. Boil water, well-salted, for the pasta. When the kale is cooked, add it to the ricotta and mix well.
3. Dump the pasta into the boiling water and cook until al dente. Use some of the starchy pasta water to thin the kale and ricotta mixture, if needed. Drain the pasta and toss with the kale and ricotta. Grate a very generous amount of Parmigiano over the pasta and toss well before serving and eating immediately.