Tuesday, April 24, 2012

weeknight dinner: kale-ricotta pasta

Last week, I hiked up the front steps of my friend Adrienne's house and rang the doorbell. Somehow I was right on time (I always seem to be too on time), in spite of a late train and lugging a ton of stuff. My arms were loaded down with my purse, a tote bag full of cookbooks -- if you're a friend, you're getting cookbooks from me whether you want them or not -- and another bag with wine, a lush bunch of lilacs and various post-work items like a pair of heels and an empty Tupperware container. Living in New York makes you want to grow a third arm.

Although you'd think I was fully prepared for dinner at a friend's house or some sort of cookbook-reading, wine-drinking binge, I did not have my trusty camera on me. So I was not able to take a photo of the lovely dinner she made for us while also managing to keep an eye on the baby, walk two dogs around the block, set out some appetizers and pour us glasses of wine. I pitched in by petting one of the dogs and feeding her little daughter a dinner of applesauce, airplane-style, two things that I was delighted to do after a long day of work.

The photo above was taken at home, where I recreated the dish with my trusty assistant.
So what was in this extra special pasta? Kale, ricotta, a little lemon zest and garlic with some parmesan cheese on top. It reminded me of a mac and cheese, but more virtuous. Simple, but the kind of satisfying meal you'd want to eat for dinner every night. And to have a dear old friend make it for me in spite of her busy life, even better.

Sitting in Adrienne's pretty apartment, drinking red wine while the baby slept soundly in the next room, I kind of wanted to move in. I actually started visualizing my furniture in the space -- the couch would go here, the dining table there. I'm itchy for a new apartment lately, but I think it was the pasta talking. Or maybe the chocolate ice cream we had for dessert. Whatever it was, it was a peek into a different and appealing sort of life. Meals with friends often have that effect on me.

Pasta with kale, lemon zest and ricotta
Loosely adapted from my friend Adrienne's recipe.
(Serves 4 to 6 people)

1 box pasta (any kind; Adrienne used gluten-free)
Olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
red pepper flakes
1 bunch kale, washed and roughly chopped, stems removed
1 cup ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper
Parmesan, for serving

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. When the garlic starts to become aromatic (1-2 minutes), add the kale and lemon juice and zest. Stir and cook until the kale wilts and becomes tender, about 5 minutes. (Add a spoonful or two of the pasta water if the kale gets a little dry.) Set the kale aside. Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the pan with the kale. Add the ricotta and stir until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste and top each serving with parmesan.


Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

You know I'll always be happy to take cookbooks off your hands. And spend some time with that wily assistant!

Daniel said...

Petting another dog? Feeding a baby applesauce airplane style? Mabel, avert your eyes, lest you turn green with envy.

Vanessa said...

I made this the other night but with preserved lemons (instead of fresh lemons) and mograhbieh instead of normal pasta (I was out) and it was delicious! Thanks for the idea. <3

Lisa said...

That sounds awesome! I love preserved lemons.

Victoria F. Lucio said...

It looks delicious and delightful. The cheese sprinkles rests in a creamy batter.


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