- Course: Main Course
- Skill Level: Moderate
- Cost: Moderate
- Favorited: 35 Times
Orecchiette, which means “little ears” in Italian, are just the right shape for this dish. The sauce, delicate yet packed with garlic, red pepper essence, and a zesty undertone of lemon, is a very easy preparation for pasta-lovers. This is excellent served in the spring when asparagus are young and bursting with flavor. You don’t need to peel the spears if they are thin. Begin with Belgian Endive Salad with Pears, Gorgonzola, and Pecans and serve biscotti and sorbet for dessert.
- 1 pound dried orecchiette pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
- ½ cup vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 3 ounces prosciutto, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)
1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta for about 10 minutes, or until al dente.
2. Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and sauté, tossing with tongs, for about 3 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute, making sure the garlic does not burn. Lower the heat and add the broth, ricotta, lemon zest, and prosciutto. Stir to combine well. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the ricotta mixture. If it is too dry, add a bit of the pasta water to moisten. Toss to combine. Serve in shallow pasta bowls and pass Parmesan cheese, if desired.
The sauce may be prepared up to 1 hour ahead and covered. Reheat gently.
The clever cook could:
1. Omit the prosciutto for a vegetarian version; substitute a chopped, sautéed portobello mushroom.
2. Use fusilli, penne, or bow-tie pasta.
3. Substitute broccoli florets for the asparagus.
© 2002 Diane Rossen Worthington
Nutritional information is based on 6 servings, 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving, and does not include optional Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving.