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Tomato, Spinach, & Roasted Garlic Pasta with Ricotta

I didn’t really plan on cooking last Sunday. I have a bunch of travel coming up and my schedule’s so busy, I figured some nice pre-made ravioli or a Kashi pizza with wine would make a lovely end to the weekend. But then as I was browsing my Pinterest boards that morning, I came across this little pasta recipe and decided I could handle something this simple  despite being tired (that was before, of course, I decided to make some chocolate hazelnut biscotti at the last minute, but that’s a story for another time).

This recipe was easy, a little different from what I normally do, very budget-friendly, and was a nice last “hurrah” of summer.

I also learned how to do a pretty great facsimile of oven-roasted garlic (which takes like almost an hour) in about two minutes, which is a very useful skill to have with my busy schedule.

The ricotta sauce (with a little help from some starchy pasta water) was creamy and light, and the parmesan if you use it adds a nice flavor. It was delicious fresh, though a little bland as leftovers a few days later (had to use much more salt and pepper).

Boil water for pasta. When it’s boiling, add a handful of salt and the dry pasta, and cook according to instructions, then drain and set aside (if your sauce isn’t ready yet). Make sure to reserve a half cup of the starchy pasta water (when it gets all cloudy, towards the end) for your sauce.

SO. You can make true roasted garlic by cutting off the top of a garlic bunch to where you’ve sliced into all (or most) of the individual cloves, then drizzling it with olive oil and baking at 400 for about 35 minutes. Or you can do the same thing, but drizzle with olive oil and microwave for a minute or two.

Put the garlic bunch in a bowl and cover it with a plate or you may end up with exploded garlic in your microwave. But overall it’s pretty magical and a great substitute for the real thing.

When they’re cool, (let me repeat, WHEN THEY ARE COOL!) smoosh them out of the papery bulb covering until you just have the cloves. I didn’t wait nearly long enough and am pretty sure I burned half of my fingertips off. But on the plus side, the now-roasted garlic looks like pretty pearls or opals or something. Mince it up fine and set aside.

Break up your ricotta in a big bowl.

Add the minced roasted garlic and a healthy dose of fresh-ground salt and pepper. Stir together until it is a smooth sauce. Add about a quarter cup or maybe more of the starchy pasta water to help water it down. The starch in the water also helps the sauce cling to the other elements in the dish.

Cut cherry or grape tomatoes in half, as many as you want. More is better.

Pull out a couple handfuls of spinach. I very roughly chopped mine just so it wasn’t all these giant spinach leaves.

Once you’ve drained the pasta, add the cheese sauce, tomatoes, and spinach to the pot (or you can do it all in a bowl if your bowl is big enough). Toss together well.

Add more salt and pepper, to taste. You can throw in some parmesan cheese if you feel like it. But otherwise you’re done.

It was delicious, easy, and the ingredients were affordable. The whole dish took 20-30 minutes to put together, and I had plenty of leftovers (which needed a lot more salt, this is definitely better the first day).

It’s also really quite healthy—ricotta isn’t bad for you, particularly if you use part-skim. You could try using whole wheat pasta (though I’m skeptical), but otherwise you’re just talking veggies.

Pasta with Roasted Garlic, Ricotta, Tomatoes, and Spinach

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 15 ounces of ricotta (I used part-skim)
  • 1 box of pasta shells or oricchette
  • 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 3 cups of spinach (a few handfuls)
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan (if you want)
  • Fresh salt and pepper to taste
  • A few tablespoons of olive oil

Using a sharp (I recommend serrated) knife, cut about 1/2 inch off the top of the head of garlic (to where you’re hopefully slightly decapitating most or all of the individual cloves). Place the garlic bulb in a small bowl drizzle a little olive oil over the cloves. Cover the bowl with an inverted plate and microwave for a minute, and then likely another minute. The garlic should have softened and become slightly translucent, and will smell awesome. Carefully remove from the microwave and set it aside to cool.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add a small handful of salt, and then add the pasta. Cook according to the directions (7-10 minutes, but I always err on the side of al dente). Reserve about 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water (when it’s cloudy toward the end) and drain the rest.

While the pasta is boiling, put the ricotta cheese in a bowl and season well with fresh-ground salt and pepper. When they’re cool, squeeze the garlic cloves from the head and mince well, then add to the ricotta. Add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water (1/2 cup at most, see what feels right) and stir until it forms a creamy sauce.

Return the drained pasta to the warm pot (the burner should be turned off) or a very large bowl. Add the spinach (I roughly chopped mine so it wasn’t giant leaves) and pour the ricotta sauce over top. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and add them to the pot as well. Toss all the ingredients together, add the parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Best served warm.

Original recipe here:  http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/2012/05/roasted-garlic-pasta-salad-853-recipe.html

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