Pappardelle with Creamy Ricotta Pesto – pappardelle pasta in a creamy, garlicky pesto sauce infused with ricotta. Who would have thought that pesto could get any better?
Pesto alla Genovese – Classic Basil Pesto – has been called the most seductive of all sauces for pasta. Vibrant and fragrant, it’s bursting with fresh, garlicky, summery flavor. But add a couple of spoons of creamy ricotta, and it becomes sublime. This Ricotta Pesto is so creamy and decadent.
What is Ricotta Pesto and Pesto alla Genovese?
Pesto alla Genovese originated in Genoa, the capital city of Liguria, Italy. It is traditionally made from basil leaves, crushed garlic, pine nuts, parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino sardo, and olive oil.
Ricotta Pesto is Pesto alla Genovese, made deliciously creamy with the addition of ricotta cheese.
Mortar and pestle or food processor?
Pesto, coming from the Italian word pestare, means to pound or crush, referring to the original method of preparation. Traditionally the ingredients are crushed in a mortar and pestle. While pesto is a generic term for anything made by pounding and there are quite a lot of variations of pesto, Pesto alla Genovese remains the most popular.
Classic Basil Pesto is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle. While this makes a superior pesto, it’s also more work and more time consuming. The food processor rends making pesto nearly effortless, and it still tastes amazing. I have given directions for both methods below.
If you do use the food processor method, stir in the cheese, butter, and ricotta by hand because with a slight effort, it produces a noticeably superior pesto.
I’ve adapted this recipe from Marcella Hazan’s Lasagne with Ricotta Pesto found in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. It’s not a typical baked lasagna, but it’s made with 3-inch by 5-inch fresh pasta noodles called piccagge, which means napkin or dish cloth.
I’ve used pappardelle in this recipe to make it more accessible to busy cooks so you can enjoy this glorious dish in about 20 minutes.
I’ve added an optional teaspoon of lemon juice to the original recipe because I think a little acid brightens the flavor and helps to keep the basil bright green.
If you have the time or inclination to make the homemade piccagge noodles, just roll out fresh pasta dough and cut into 3-inch by 5-inch rectangles.
Pappardelle with Creamy Ricotta Pesto
- 1 pound pappardelle pasta or other variety (500g)
- 1 tablespoon butter (14g)
- 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves (100g)
- 2 garlic cloves finely minced
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (100g)
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts (33g)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice optional
- Salt to taste
- ½ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (56g)
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (14g)
- 2 tablespoons butter softened to room temperature (28g)
- ¼ cup ricotta cheese (57g)
For the pasta:
- Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente. The water should be as salty as sea water. I use about 2 tablespoons.
- Drain pasta, reserving some of the cooking liquid to thin the Ricotta Pesto as needed.
- Toss drained pasta with 1 tablespoon butter.
For the Ricotta Pesto:
To make in the food processor:
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine basil, olive oil, pine nuts, minced garlic, optional lemon juice, and salt to taste. Process until creamy.
- Transfer to a bowl and mix in the two cheeses, butter, and ricotta.
To make with mortar and pestle:
- Combine basil, pine nuts, minced garlic, and salt to taste (coarse is better in the mortar). Using the pestle with a rotary, grinding motion, grind the ingredients into a paste against the sides of the mortar.
- Add both cheeses and the optional lemon and using the pestle grind into the paste.
- Pour in olive oil in a thin stream and beat until incorporated with a wooden spoon.
- Stir in butter and ricotta.
Combine pasta and sauce:
- Toss the Ricotta Pesto with the hot, buttered pasta, adding reserved pasta water as necessary to make a sauce that clings to the pasta. I stir about ½ cup of the reserved water into the pesto before adding to the pasta. Salt as needed to taste.
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