Where it concerns simple weeknight dinners, pasta is unavoidable.
And that’s okay, so long as you have creative remixes up your sleeve. This title ~ White asparagus penne & ricotta toast with fresh snap peas ~ is a mouthful, but trust me – it has the delicious glory to justify it. Now, you might be looking at the header image and noticing two types of pasta. Indeed, we had a bit of elbow macaroni remaining in our cupboard. So, we thought – why not play with the textures and include both.
With minimal ingredients, this is a staple in any cooking enthusiasts’ recipe stack. It’s straightforward and will leave you pleased and other dinner guests impressed. And if you’re unfamiliar with Meghan content, allow me to enlighten you. I love tips and listicles about as much as I love words. Here it goes, pasta edition.
Tip #1: Never underestimate acid.
No, not the drug. Today, we’re talking citrus. Many recipes call for an acidic element to balance richness. I’ve found that in most cases, you can swap citrus for vinegar and vice versa. While I’m no chef, this works well. Vinegar certainly adds the tang you desire, but how much better is fresh lemon or lime? In the nutrition and flavor department: mucho.
For me, lemon is a natural pairing with pasta. Whether the zest or the juice, the starch in a steaming bowl of penne is screaming for a citrus bite. The combination delivers satiety and satisfaction in a one fell swoop.
Tip #2: Pasta is healthy if you make it so.
I’ve heard the argument a time or two that pasta cannot be healthy. I beg to differ. Pasta is the perfect base for a wealth of nutrition. Of course, my approach is some variety of whole wheat, spelt or buckwheat. But pasta in itself packs a necessary dose of carbs that our body needs to function.
Again, I much prefer the depth of flavor and the bite to the complex grains. Sure, aiming for al dente with any variety means achieving such firmness, but you miss out on the added fiber and protein.
Ordinary pasta is golden in its own right, as with anything – in moderation. You know why? Because you can make pasta healthy regardless of your grain choice. Read on. The best companion to our friendly carbohydrates is: vegetables. They add volume and usually color.
This time, we had asparagus on our hands. As I’m based in the Netherlands, white asparagus is the norm. It’s much more common than the green variety I grew up with. (U.S. things). The latter delivers a healthy color, but this monochromatic version is still beautiful. This brings me to my next point: the side.
Tip #3: Every occasion calls for a side dish.
What you serve alongside your pasta dish can make or break the meal. You might be wondering, why do I need a side dish to an already generous amount of food? My answer is that you do. Whether it’s fresh mozzarella, basil, and prosciutto on a serving plank; a fresh balsamic salad with cherry tomato; or dates and creamy cheese, this is where you take notes.
Limiting yourself to one dish is like listening to the same song on repeat for three hours. You could do it, but why? I want to see pen and paper; the clocks moving in your brain, reciting the fact that flavor is your friend.
Just think of the French. Before dinner even comes into the equation, they slow down and savor the start of the evening with ~ apéro. This is usually a small drink and some bites, and it’s meant to mark the end of the day and start of the evening. The best part? This is no ordeal for vacation. They celebrate decadence each day, and you should too.
Tip #4: Make un apéro part of your daily equation, and you might finally understand why we were put on this earth.
Point being: this ricotta toast was banging. Call it a side dish or call it your delayed apéro, it’s here to stay. Visually-appealing, light, and the perfect compliment to an already enjoyable ensemble of ingredients. Before I lose you in my digressions, here’s the recipe for both.
White asparagus penne with lemon
As mentioned, pasta needs 1) an acid and 2) vegetables. This is no science, but it’s what I suggest for a well-rounded concoction. If you’re not feeling creative, here’s the asparagus lemon variation – yours for the taking.
- 150g asparagus ,cut into 2.5cm pieces
- 2 stalks scallion, chopped
- 1/2 juicy lemon, zest and juice
- 15g olive oil
- 150g pasta of your choice
- ~80g ricotta, for serving
- Salt, freshly cracked black pepper
- Prepare pasta according to cooking instructions.
- Zest and juice the lemon and place in a bowl.
- Heat oil in a pan and add scallion.
- Cook scallion until lightly toasted, then add asparagus and lemon, plus salt.
- Drain pasta and add to the pan with the remaining ingredients.
- Serve with a dollop of ricotta and more black pepper, lemon zest and juice to taste.
Ricotta toast with fresh snap peas
This is the perfect accompaniment to the light pasta dish above. The ricotta is a consistent superstar and the snap peas add a necessary freshness to round out the meal. Try it as a starter alongside some wine (apéro vibes) or enjoy the crunch between bites of pasta. The world is your oyster.
Recipe inspired by theoriginaldish ~ if you haven’t already, check her recipes out.
- 2 slices hearty whole grain bread, toasted
- 50g fresh sugar snap peas, sliced thinly lengthwise
- Drizzle of olive oil
- 1/2 lemon, juice and zest
- Ricotta, a few dollops
- Salt, freshly cracked black pepper
- Chives, for serving
- Dill, for serving
- Toast your bread and smear with the ricotta.
- Meanwhile, slice the snap peas lengthwise. Pieces don’t need to be uniform but the longer and thinner the better – more surface area to soak up the oil + lemon.
- Next, combine the olive oil and lemon juice in equal parts (1:1). Add the zest as well and season with salt and pepper.
- Add the snap peas to the oil lemon mixture and toss to combine.
- Top the ricotta toasts with the soaked snap peas and chives and dill for taste.
- Bon app!