We often think of ricotta cheese as a product that gets baked into lasagnas and Italian cheesecakes, but it’s quite delicious simply stirred into pasta with other savory elements.
Last week’s recipe that I shared for my Grandma Sadie’s noodle pudding used homemade almond ricotta. While the recipe made 3 cups, only two were used. I suggested incorporating the leftover cup of ricotta into another recipe. I took my own advice, creating this creamy spinach pesto that coats the pasta in a bright, spring green sauce. It’s rich and satisfying yet light on the palate thanks to a good dose of lemon zest. In addition to the leftover ricotta, the pesto was a great way to use up an open bag of fresh spinach.
Bring a bit of springtime green to your autumn dinner table with this luscious pasta dish.
- You can substitute store-bought vegan ricotta for the homemade almond ricotta.
- I love to use basil-infused olive oil in place of fresh basil and regular olive oil for this pesto, as basil is an accent flavor not the main component of the sauce. It adds a subtle herbaceous-ness to the dish. Quite lovely. Basil olive oil is a fabulous addition to your pantry staples for many of your dishes that call for fresh basil. Also delicious drizzled on salads.
- Use a food processor not a high-speed blender for the pesto.
- Try fusilloni, which are very large corkscrew-shaped pasta. Otherwise, I suggest short pasta with lots of nooks and crannies to grab onto the pesto. Please note that many specialty pastas from Italy weigh slightly more, 17.6 oz., than the usual one-pound variety popular in the US. Either size package works.
- Serve with a crisp side salad and warm baguette with good EVOO for a complete comfort food meal.
- Leftovers keep in the fridge for several days. I suggest eating leftovers cold or at room temperature. Pesto does not reheat well as the oil can separate from the sauce. It freezes well for longer-term storage.
Fusilloni with Spinach Ricotta Pesto
1 package Fusilloni or pasta of choice
1 cup toasted pine nuts or toasted walnuts
2 cloves garlic, rough chopped
2 packed cups baby spinach leaves
1 cup almond or other plant-based ricotta
1 cup grated vegan Parmesan cheese, plus more for plating
Zest of one lemon, plus more for plating
1/2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
1/2 cup Basil infused olive oil plus more for plating
Spinach chiffonade (spinach leaves cut into ribbons) for plating
- Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water.
- Meanwhile, put the nuts and garlic into the food processor with the processing blade and break down into a crumbly paste, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Add the spinach and break down the leaves, maintaining a bit of texture to the leaves.
- Don’t overprocess to a smooth purée.
- Add the ricotta, Parmesan, lemon and salt and combine well, scraping down the sides of bowl. Taste for seasoning and adjust. With the motor running stream in the oil until combined.
- Remove the blade from the bowl and stir up the pesto making sure oil is integrated into the other ingredients.
- In a large mixing bowl toss all of the pesto with the hot pasta and a bit of pasta cooking water. Start with a quarter cup of pasta water. Add in increments until desired consistency. I used about a third cup.
- Transfer to a serving platter and top with a bit more olive oil, lemon zest, spinach chiffonade, pine nuts, and grated Parmesan.
- Serve immediately or chill and serve.
- Leftovers keep several days in the fridge. It freezes well for longer storage.