What You Get When Back-Pocket Pasta Meets Date Night

Photo: Courtesy of Food52.

By Posie Harwood

The pasta aisle is a wonderful place to be. You can practice your Italian, fantasize about moving to Cinque Terre, and find exceptional recipes. My favorite so far is a creative, double-cheese riff on a pesto — with almonds and ricotta — from the De Cecco box. Simple and effortless, the recipe yields a satisfying weeknight dish that’s just as suitable for an impressive dinner. It’s back-pocket pasta meets date night, which is my kind of cooking — and probably yours, too.

This is not an average pesto: It contains neither olive oil nor pine nuts. You might scoff at calling it a pesto at all (the word pesto comes from Italian verb pestare, meaning “to pound,” so this only loosely fits the rubric); maybe we should describe it as something altogether different. A basil-almond-ricotta cream, perhaps, or creamy basil sauce? You pick. Let’s just cook.

Related: How To Make Pesto Without A Recipe

You’ll pulse together basil leaves, peeled almonds, milk, Parmesan cheese, and salt. You'll watch it whirl into a vibrantly green, creamy paste. It’s pretty and bold and tasty, but this is only the beginning.

Separately, you’ll stir melted butter into fresh ricotta cheese. You’ll fold that gently into your sauce, softening the bright edges of the basil and mellowing out the nuttiness of the almonds into a looser, sexier, more relaxed version of a pesto. All that dairy is so hard not to love; you'll be tempted to spread it onto toast and call it a day.

But, you’ll resist. You'll boil a pot of pasta (any shape is fine), drain it, and toss it with the sauce. You’ll grate some extra Parmesan on top. You’ll pour a glass of white wine. You’ll sit down at the table with a fork and a real plate and a cloth napkin, and you’ll eat and breathe and appreciate the fact that dinner comes once a day, every day.

Related: Pasta With Creamy Basil-Almond-Ricotta Sauce
Photo: Courtesy of Food52.

Pasta With Creamy Basil-Almond-Ricotta Sauce
Adapted from De Cecco
Serves 4

1 bunch basil
6 tbsp milk
1/4 cup peeled, sliced almonds
3 tbsp Parmesan, freshly grated
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 tbsp fresh ricotta
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 lb pasta
2 cloves garlic

1. In a food processor, combine the basil, Parmesan, milk, garlic, and almonds, salt, and pepper and blend until well-combined.

2. In a separate bowl, stir together the ricotta and melted butter. Add the basil mixture to the bowl and gently fold the sauce together.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add your pasta and cook until al dente.

4. Drain the pasta and mix it with the basil sauce while the pasta is still warm. Top with grated Parmesan, if you'd like, and serve warm.

Next: Two-Pea Pesto Chicken Salad

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