The flavor combination of this dish was fantastic at Eataly, New York city's famed Italian mega-marketplace, so I created an easier version for vegetarian lemon pasta with kale and ricotta, sprinkled with pistachios.
Lemon Pasta with Kale and Ricotta
Lunchtime at Eataly found us devouring plates of silken ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach, then tossed with butter, Parmesan, lemon and chopped pistachios. The flavor combination was fantastic. As I finished my plate, I was already concocting a recipe to share with you for vegetarian lemon pasta with kale and ricotta. It’s a deconstructed version that highlights the flavors but is far less time consuming than making homemade ravioli.
Fortified for Shopping: Olive Oil Expert
Fortified for shopping, I was hunting for lemon olive oil for my recipe. A smiling young man in an apron asked if I’d like to sample some of the oils and offered to help me select my lemon oil. Since Eataly offers nearly 100 varieties of olive oil from Italian producers, the choices were overwhelming and the assistance was welcome. Lucky for me, this young man was an expert on olive oil. In fact I’ve never met anyone who knew so much about it.
His name was Nick Coleman, the Chief Oleologist for Eataly. He also happens to be the person who selects all of the olive oils for Mario Batali’s restaurants.
In just a short time I learned so much about olive oil from Nick. He taught me that olives are fleshy sponges that absorb flavors from their environment. And that pepperiness in the back of your throat? The more you feel it, the more antioxidants there are in the oil. Olive oils have layers of flavors, just like wine, so slurp it when you taste, aerating it in your mouth. And that pretty color? It has no bearing on flavor or quality. You must taste it.
Wherever You Are, Find the Experts
Whether shopping locally or traveling abroad, seek out the experts and have fun learning about ingredients. Always leave room in your suitcase to bring a few treasures home. It can make a big difference in your cooking and you’ll smile thinking of the memories.
A few notes on the recipe. Use whole wheat pasta or brown rice pasta if you eat gluten-free (Jovial is my favorite), kale instead of spinach (or spinach is fine), ricotta and lemon olive oil instead of butter. Toss the cooked pasta with the ricotta and lemon olive oil to create a quick and creamy sauce. Add the kale, the top with Parmesan, lemon zest and chopped pistachios. It’s a vegetarian main course or a wonderful side dish for chicken. Like the signs in Eataly say – Eat better, live better! My motto exactly.
For photos of kale and trimming the ribs out, look at my post on Kale and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells
- 8 ounces spaghetti or linguine brown rice or whole wheat
- bunch Lacinato or Tuscan kale
- 1 cup Ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons lemon or regular olive oil plus more for drizzling over the top
- 1-2 ounces chopped raw unsalted, shelled pistachio nuts
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
- 1 large lemon zested
- Fill a large pot or pan (5 quarts) with water. Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil, trim the kale. If the leaves are small and tender, trim off the bottom stem, then crosswise into thin ribbons or strips. If the leaves are larger, cut out the center rib, then cut across into thin ribbons.
- When water boils, add a tablespoon of salt. Add the kale ribbons and cook for 3-4 minutes. Lift the cooked kale out with a spider or sieve and set aside (don’t drain the water yet). While the water is still boiling, add pasta and cook according to package directions.
- When the pasta is done, save a little of the cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta and place back in the hot pan with the heat off. Add a little salt and pepper.
- Add the ricotta cheese and olive oil. Toss until creamy. If you want it to be more creamy, add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water. Add the kale. Place the pasta in warmed, wide shallow bowls. Top with a little more olive oil if desired, plus the pistachios, Parmesan and lemon zest.