I love to cook. I really do. And while Italian isn’t my favorite type of meal to eat, I LOVE to make it. The smells are so warm and inviting. There is something about the sizzle of spicy garlic and sweet butter that just mean comfort. Every time I smell the heady aroma of fresh basil and rich olive oil I envision a bustling woman reigning over her kitchen with a wooden spoon in her hand and soft tea towel tucked into her apron. When I am at a loss as to what to make I always turn to a pasta classic. No one can resist such a rich and satisfying meal.
The other night a large group of my friends got together for dinner and I did just that. I slow cooked lean beef and aromatic Italian sausage in crushed roma tomatoes with lots of fresh garlic and crushed red pepper. I planned to serve this Bolognese sauce over penne pasta with crusty garlic bread and my yummy chopped Italian salad with homemade vinaigrette. I also had a sampler platter of new cupcake flavors to unveil for taste testing purposes. (My poor friends are always my guinea pigs)
While the menu sounded good to me, I wanted to dress it up a little. Always a fan of cream sauces, but not the calories, I decided to come up with a simple addition to the pasta dish.
An herbed ricotta! I whipped together a store bought part skim ricotta with garlic, parsley, thyme, oregano and, of course, salt and pepper to taste. I scooped the creamy cheese into balls and dropped it directly on top of the pasta dishes for people to stir in themselves as they saw fit! It melted right in to the hot tomato sauce and created a lasagna-like dish that was really yummy! (Everyone knows the best part of a lasagna is the cheese layer)
This recipe for the herbed ricotta is so easy and can be used in almost any pasta (It would be delicious with pesto) or spread onto French bread as an alternative to garlic butter or oil. It is a simple way to dress up any Italian meal (even a store bought sauce-yikes!) Hope you and your friends like it!
16 oz container of ricotta
2T granulated garlic
1T dried thyme
1t dried oregano
1T dried parsley
Salt and pepper
Combine all in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer and, using the whisk attachment, blend it all together until smooth and incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to use.
You can store this in the refrigerator in an air tight container for a week!