Tonight was one of those nights. I came home from work and flopped down on the couch, exhausted from the day. The odds of me getting up again were pretty low. I picked up my phone to order PF Chang’s delivery for dinner, but at that very moment, I felt the low bass of a headache rumble through my skull, like someone had just rung my head like the Liberty Bell.
I thought, “Oh god, I’m definitely not getting up now. Delivery can’t get here fast enough.”
And then I paused and heard a little voice in my head, the quiet whisper that’s historically far smarter than the rest of me. It said, “There’s a flu going around, you bonehead. You need real food, or I guarantee you this headache is going to last you all week.”
I sat staring at my phone for a good minute after that, thinking – Fuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhh, I really don’t want to cook tonight. But when I tried to wrap my head around the idea of another salty, fatty takeout dinner, I felt weak and sad. Like the little voice in my head had started to cry in the corner.
Ok. Fine. I’ll get up. I’ll cook.
I dug through the fridge and found a few bits and bobs from the prior week’s grocery trip. A few leaves of basil, a dredging of ricotta cheese, a chunk of parmesan left over from the prior week’s risotto. Sitting on the counter, beginning to pucker a bit from age, were a few Roma tomatoes and half a head of garlic. I sighed. It was more than enough to work with.
I’d remembered seeing a recipe for something along these lines in a recent issue of the James Beard Foundation Notes newsletter, a simple pasta dish that only took 10 minutes to prepare. I couldn’t find the issue but vaguely remembered the gist of the dish.
I threw together this simple 10-minute pasta with tomatoes and fresh ricotta from memory, and what I had in the end was not only quick and easy, but incredibly delicious. So much so that I made a bunch and saved the rest for lunch. Yay! I love it when that happens. (It’s the same way with this super easy Spanish rice recipe, which I love so much.)
My headache did in fact go away and there was no cold to speak of that week, so I suppose that wretchedly genius little voice in my head was right after all. (Thank you, Little Voice. I shouldn’t call you names.) And in the end I now have this wonderful recipe that comes together lightning-quick for those nights when you’d rather become a piece of furniture than get off your butt to cook dinner.
- 4 whole basil leaves, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh ricotta - get the good stuff
- 8 ounces penne or spiral pasta
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 whole Roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1 pinch sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Chopped fresh basil for garnish
- Freshly grated Parmesan
- Mix basil leaves into ricotta and set aside.
- Set a large pot of water to boil. Once it’s boiling, salt the water generously—it should taste like the sea. Add the pasta and boil for the duration indicated on the package. For good measure, snatch a noodle from the water 2 minutes before the time is up to check the texture. It should be just al dente, with a little bit of tooth to it. When it’s done, reserve 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat until it glistens. Add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds, stirring constantly to keep it from burning. Add the tomatoes and sauté for another 1 minute.
- Add the drained pasta to the pan, along with the reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper and stir well. Keep cooking another 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes become tender but are not falling apart.
- Remove from heat and add ricotta, stirring to break up the cheese a bit and coat the noodles and tomatoes. Serve immediately topped with chopped fresh basil and grated Parmesan.
This content was originally posted on FearlessFresh.com.