“Two posts in two days!” I know you’re undoubtedly musing to yourself. It’s just that I actually have so many posts-in-the-making on the table right now, and quite a bit of time on my hands. It’s taken a bit of blood, sweat, and tears, but we’ve finally arrived at our final week of teaching (as far as we know… We’re trying to be mindful of the possibility that, come next week, they look at us in utter shock when we say we’re not prepared to teach because we were told the students would be writing their final tests), and I’ve gone the easy (read: “easy”) route of having my students do another poetry project, which requires very little resource preparing and planning on my part at this point (in a perfect world my students would be able to identify that as [unintended] alliteration, but I suppose we’re all well aware of our world’s various imperfections).
As I said, last weekend was meant to be devoted to my dog, Arrested Development, and culinary exploration. Though I chose to go gallivanting instead, the desire to do some new cooking stayed strong in me. Friday morning before leaving I followed through with my plans to try out Heidi-from-101cookbooks.com’s Cottage Pancakes recipe, which I found well lekker (lolzlolzlolz, been around Eugene too long; also [unlike “lolzlolzlolz”] “lekker”‘s not getting picked up by my spell check? Just another reason to let it stand…) and I think will be sharing in a full-fledged entry shortly.
But, with two-and-a-half-hours on the back of a bike on the return journey, I also started throwing together ideas for a dinner dish in my head. My mom had been so kind as to include pine nuts in her last package upon request, as I’ve been dying to attempt a homemade pesto with the hordes of basil overtaking our front garden patch. Also, though the Cottage Pancakes had been good two mornings previous, they hadn’t gone quite according to plan. I’d planned on substituting cottage cheese with my homemade ricotta, which I’ve made so many times by now I had haughtily gone so far as to think I’d damn near perfected it. Well my hubris was promptly put in check, as the batch I attempted for the pancakes went decidedly pear-shaped. The curds and whey didn’t separate properly and I was left with something that was closer to sour cream than cheese. I had every intention of attempting the effort again, so decided I might as well make a big ol’ batch of ricotta as well.
Pesto? Ricotta? Penne? It sounded like a winning combination (though I was really toying with the notion of attempting to make my own ravioli, but I thought that sounded a bit over-ambitious for the moment). We stopped by Tesco as we made our way back into town, and it was time to get down to business.
The first thing you might notice is the pesto recipe calls for two whole cups of fresh basil. And you might be wondering just where one could be expected to come up with two cups of basil at a moment’s notice. As I suggested before, let me direct you to my front yard. Our garden experience has been one of trial and error; of things that seemed to have so much potential only to be sabotaged by the weather, the pets, or entirely mysterious circumstances; of seeds that wouldn’t sprout and sprouts that wouldn’t grow… But also a handful of really, really satisfying successes. And the biggest success story of all is our basil. It’s become a grove–nay– a forest! Two cups? Pish posh. We’ve got about two hundred.
Another success, very slowly but surely, has been the tomatoes. Thanks to a lot of care and attention on Wayne‘s part, the plants are finally starting to bear (I’d say) around 15 tomatoes, which is super exciting. Alas, they all seem to be ripening in succession (as opposed to simultaneously) so I can only claim one tomato of the three in the recipe as our own but it’s a claim I’m still proud to make.
(working on another time lapse video… here’s a sneak peak)
Alright so I think that’s about it for the intro. Onto the recipe!
Homemade Ricotta and Pesto Penne
1/2 cup ricotta (recipe here)
3/4 cup pesto (recipe below)
1/2 package of penne (ahhh, I’m trying to be better with my measurements but I’m showing my… amateur status by not even knowing how much pasta’s in a package haha)
3 tomatoes (or however many you want. We happened to have three.)
Parmesan and shredded mozzarella for topping
Pesto ingredients: (adapted from Gavan Murphy‘s recipe that used to be found here but for some reason it’s telling me that link’s dead…)
1 1/2 cups olive oil
2 cups fresh basil
2 tbsp pine nuts
A few squirts of lemon juice (his recipe calls for the zest of one lemon, which I’d love to try, but didn’t have a lemon to zest)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp grated parmesan (his recipe is vegan and so doesn’t include the parm)
1. Preheat oven to 200˚C (392˚F). Prepare the ricotta ahead of time, giving it time to drain for around an hour before adding it into the recipe.
2. Toast the pine nuts over medium heat for 1-2 minutes in a dry pan.
3. Place basil, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parmesan in a food processor (or, in my case, your wannabe food processor blender attachment) with about a tablespoon or two of the olive oil. Give it a good spin for thirty seconds or so, add the rest of the olive oil, and let it go until it reaches your desired consistency. I didn’t mind having a few bigger chunks of basil in mine.
4. Cook the penne noodles according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
5. Chop up three tomatoes into bite sized pieces. Combine them with 1/2 cup of ricotta and 3/4 cup pesto.
6. Drain the noodles, toss with tomato/ricotta/pesto mixture, and place in a suitable baking pan. Cover with as much parmesan and shredded mozzarella (okay, confession, we used cheddar because it’s all we had) as suits your taste.
7. Toss in the oven for 5-10 minutes, til the cheese gets niiiiice and melty and the tomatoes get that amazing taste and texture that roast tomatoes seem to have.
Serves enough for two people to serve themselves half the pan between them, intending to save the rest for lunch, and then end up eating the whole thing because it’s that good. Bon apetite!