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
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)
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
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.