One of My Favorites

February 18, 2010


Have you read the book Cooking for Mr. Latte?  It is by Amanda Hesser who used to be a food critic for the New York Times.  She has also written a cookbook and is working on an intriguing project called Food 52.  Cooking for Mr. Latte is the story of how she met her now husband (the author Tad Friend) and recipes for the food she cooked along the way.  Sound like a familiar premise?  I know, these food-memoirs-with-recipes seem to be everywhere these days.  I just talked about another one in my last post.  But Hesser’s book is from 2003 – before blogs made a big splash and everyone got a book deal.  It’s my favorite of the food memoirs I have read.

Because she was a food critic, her descriptions of food are expert.  You want to be sitting along side her eating.  And her recipes are terrific.  So much so that I keep this little book on my heavy rotation cookbook shelf.  I love the things I have made from this book.  And this is my favorite of the bunch.

Hesser is the first person who told me about Meyer lemons.  The way she talked about them made me go on a mission to seek them out.  These days they are easy to find in Seattle, but just a few years ago it took a lot more investigative work.  They have become one of those “shoulds” in the cooking world.  You know, you “should” eat seasonally, you “should” always use fresh herbs, you “should” make your own salad dressing, and you “should” always use Meyer lemons if you can find them.  Well, I agree with the first three in that list.  And now that I have used Meyer lemons many many times, I have to say that I’m not sure I agree with that last one.  I love lemons.  Meyer lemons are more orange-y tasting and I don’t love oranges.  So, I’m going against the grain and saying no, in general you “should” use whatever lemons you like.

Except in this recipe.  For me, the Meyer lemons work amazingly well here and regular lemons are too mild.  This is a very simple recipe.  Simple in that “simple is sometimes better” way.  I love making this for dinner when recent meals have been complicated or overly spiced or really rich.  It is such a clean dish but not too spare.  Not to be a food snob, but fresh pasta is practically a must here.  You will taste the pasta and you want that pasta to taste good.  (One of these days, I will make my own and when I do, I’m making this one to go with this dish.)

I should have garnished this dish differently for the photo.  I know it looks like white on white.  But trust me.  It is so delicious in that wonderful simple way.  And it takes next to no time to make.  I can’t wait for spring so I can add some blanched asparagus to this bowl.


One Year Ago:  Tome Yum Soup with Tofu and Mushrooms

Paparadelle with Lemon, Herbs, and Ricotta Salata
Adapted from Cooking for Mr. Latte
Serves 4

I’ve used all different combinations of herbs in this dish – use what you have.  I would keep the amount roughly the same and definitely use the mint.

2 cups vegetable broth
1 clove garlic, peeled and lightly smashed with a  knife
Grated zest of 1 lemon (use a Meyer if possible)
Juice of 1 lemon (ditto)
Sea salt
1 pound paparadelle, broken (or cut) into 2-inch pieces
3 tbsp. chopped mint
2 tbsp. chopped marjoram
1 tbsp. chopped fennel fronds, or tarragon, or chervil
Olive oil
6 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled or shaved
Coarsely ground black pepper

1.  Fill a large pot with water and add enough salt so that you can taste it.  Bring to a boil.  Pour the vegetable broth into a small saucepan, drop in the garlic and bring to a boil.  Reduce by half.  Remove the garlic and shut off the heat.  Stir in the lemon zest and juice.  Season and taste.  It should be full flavored because this will be the sauce for the pasta.  Keep warm.

2.  When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook until soft on the edges but still firm under the tooth.  After a few minutes, ladle out about 1 cup of the cooking liquid and reserve.  Drain the pasta, shake it lightly, then return it to the pot.  Put it over low heat and pour in the broth.  Sprinkle in the mint and other herbs and a little olive oil.  Add some of the reserved cooking liquid and more lemon juice if needed.  Season to taste with salt (keeping in mind that the cheese will add some salt).

3.  Spoon into bowls so that the pasta is lying in a bit of broth.  Scatter the ricotta salata over it, drizzle with a bit more olive oil (DT: I skipped the oil), and grind pepper over the top.


  1. I’m so intrigued about Meyer lemons! Everyone is writing about them! It is very frustrating to be this curious about the taste and know that there’s no way to get one where I’m living… Your pasta looks delicious, even if I have to use my imagination for the lemony – side of the taste…

    Comment by Salla@Goddess of Cake — February 18, 2010 @ 8:28 pm

  2. This looks so good! I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Meyer lemons in the stores around here, but I’ll keep my eyes out…I’ve heard so much about them.

    Also, I’m having a foodie giveaway on my blog if you and your readers are interested…

    Comment by Carla Wells — February 18, 2010 @ 9:16 pm

  3. Oh wow, this dish looks great! Looks simple but flavorful! I am going to have to save this recipe.

    Comment by Sook @ My Fabulous Recipes — February 18, 2010 @ 9:44 pm

  4. I adore Meyer lemons — their perfume is like nothing else, intoxicating! (My sister in California is lucky enough to have them growing in her yard!) But I agree with you, Dana, that you should not “always” use Meyer lemons whenever lemons are called for. Meyer lemons are something else altogether and will not always work in recipes where a “lemony” taste is what’s wanted. Also, they are in season and available only a few (winter) months a year. I find them to be far more perishable in my fridge than “regular” lemons, so use ’em up fast!

    Comment by Stephanie — February 18, 2010 @ 9:53 pm

  5. That book is on my list, but I haven’t read it yet. Can’t wait! I think I like all lemons. Meyer lemons aren’t always acidic enough for me, but I do love getting to pick them off my trees (this was finally a good year for them). This pasta looks fantastic! Simply perfect ingredients brought together.

    Comment by lisaiscooking — February 18, 2010 @ 11:25 pm

  6. I love ricotta salata more than any cheese for salads and pastas.
    so much better than feta and not as sharp. I crave it.
    Didn’t Amanda have a cameo appearance on Julie and Julia?
    I had no idea she had a book. What do I know?

    Comment by stacey snacks — February 19, 2010 @ 1:32 am

  7. I completely agree with you about Meyer lemons. They are certainly tasty, but I adore regular lemons and usually prefer them.

    The pasta looks terrific.

    Comment by Laura — February 19, 2010 @ 2:04 am

  8. I LOVE Amanda Hesser, this was such a cute book. I want my own Mr. Latte!

    Comment by maris — February 19, 2010 @ 2:57 am

  9. I love the white on white. I love pasta…

    Comment by Tracy (Amuse-bouche for Two) — February 19, 2010 @ 4:13 pm

  10. How have I never had ricotta salata? Looks amazing. I love the white on white as well. Yum.

    Comment by kickpleat — February 19, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

  11. No, no, no, it looks fab! I did have to google ricotta salata though, having not heard of it and wondering how on earth you could shave ricotta! Sounds great, I will be keeping my eyes peeled for this cheese. Lovely dish Dana, you always manage to strike the right note for me with your dishes :)

    Comment by Jacqueline — February 19, 2010 @ 10:55 pm

  12. Peeled, ha, ha! The was quite unintentional :)

    Comment by Jacqueline — February 19, 2010 @ 10:56 pm

  13. Oh how I love a good, clean, fresh plate of pasta. This looks delicious! The perfect in between seasons meal.

    Comment by Jacqui — February 20, 2010 @ 6:12 pm

  14. Sounds like a great book..but an even more amazing dish!

    Comment by Leslie — February 20, 2010 @ 9:47 pm

  15. I LOVED that book and was so sad when it ended. I’ve made a few things from it: the chocolate dump-it cake and some lovely salads…but never one of the pastas. Now, that’ll change. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Comment by Megan Gordon — February 21, 2010 @ 4:01 am

  16. Yes! That was such a cute book. And as you said, before its time.

    Comment by Hilary — February 21, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

  17. It makes me feel better to hear that you prefer regular lemons, because I’ve yet to try Meyer lemons (haven’t seen them here) so I don’t feel like I’m missing out as much! Nor have I seen ricotta salata hm. Anyway this looks like a wonderful simple pasta dish.

    Comment by Ashley — February 27, 2010 @ 5:41 pm

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