Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pasta with Ham, Peas, Garlic and Ricotta Salata

While I was walking through my local grocery store, I found something new and interesting.  It is a cheese called "Ricotta Salata."  I did not know what I would do with it but I tossed it into my cart anyway.  When I got home, I looked for some likely recipes.  This one looked perfect.  Except, I added some ham to make it a complete meal.  You have to admit, ham is the perfect addition to this dish.  I guess I could have used bacon but the ham just seemed to be calling to me.  I found it interesting that my mother told me she ate ricotta salata often during her childhood. For me, it was something different but for her it is an old familiar cheese that she hadn't seen in a long time.  Everything old is new again, I guess.
Ricotta is a moist fresh cheese made from whey that is used in Italian dishes like lasagna, manicotti and cheesecake. Ricotta salata is a variation of ricotta that has been pressed, salted and dried.
Ricotta salata is hard and white and has a mildly salty, nutty and milky flavor. It can be shaved or grated over salads, pastas and vegetable dishes.

Pasta with Ham, Peas, Garlic and Ricotta Salata
Adapted from Food & Wine
Makes 4 Servings

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh baby peas (1 pound unshelled)
1 cup ham, diced
1 pound linquine
Salt and pepper ground pepper
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped marjoram
½ cup crumbled or shaved ricotta salata or feta cheese (about 2 ounces)


1.     Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet.  Add the garlic and cook over low heat, stirring until very soft and golden, about 3 minutes.  Add ham and cook for another 2 minutes or until heated through.  Remove from the heat.
2.      In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, blanch the peas in a strainer until just tender, about 3 minutes.  Transfer the peas and ham to a bowl
3.      Add the linquine to the saucepan and boil until al dente.  Drain the linquine, reserved ¼ cup of the cooking liquid.   Return the pasta to the saucepan and toss with the garlic, oil, peas and reserved pasta water.  Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the marjoram.  Top with the cheese and serve at once.


The Creative Cook