The sheer quantity of recipes online and in my cookbook library can be overwhelming. I continuously collect recipes in my Epicurious and Martha Stewart profiles. I keep a binder of magazine tear sheets. I keep a recipe box of index cards. Like everyone, I have infinite choices at my fingertips.
So when I have a basic idea of what to make for dinner, I generally combine several recipes, distilling the best parts of each. I think the most thrilling aspect of cooking is the alchemy of creation. And I love the small triumph of creating the perfect recipe.
On Sunday, I wanted a pasta with dark, leafy greens. Most of the recipe comes from Martha Stewart’s Rigatoni with Swiss Chard. As my own twist, I replaced the chard with kale, added roasted butternut squash and a few pinches of nutmeg. The spice of the red pepper, the zest of the lemon, and the creamy fresh ricotta make this an outstanding and perfectly balanced pasta dish.
Penne with Fresh Ricotta, Kale and Butternut Squash
2 to 3 servings
3/4 lb penne
1 tblsp unsalted butter
3 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 1/2 lbs kale, stems removed, leaves cut into 1/2-inch strips (about 5 cups)
zest of two lemons
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
2 pinches nutmeg
fresh grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling
2 cups cubed butternut squash, 2-inch cubes
salt and fresh black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the butternut squash on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and cooked through, tossing occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tblsp salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain.
3. Meanwhile, heat the butter and 2 tblsp olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add garlic, shallots and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the kale, lemon zest, wine, 1 tsp salt and black pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until kale has just wilted, about 3 minutes.
4. Stir in pasta, ricotta, and nutmeg. Add some extra-virgin olive oil to loosen the sauce if necessary. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the roasted butternut squash. Divide among serving dishes. Generously sprinkle with Parmesan and fresh black pepper.