The Mise-en-place Getting things together
Garnish with grated cheese and peas and serve
|The Food Table||
Recently I saw an episode of Lidia where she prepared penne with mushrooms and ricotta. As with all of Lidia’s recipes this one was another that called immediate imitation and delight of experience. I made it the very next day. As I was savoring the ricotta and the various textures of the mushrooms I was beset by a mixture of memories and a sense of something missing. The memory, I realized, was that of the comforting warmth of pastina and eggs. The something missing seemed to be the very Southern Italian use of green peas in the blend. Of course, there was the essential other component. I must attribute to Lidia the use of fresh mushrooms, something that simply did not exist when I was growing up. Mushrooms in those days came in two ways, either canned, to be used in gravies, or jarred, to be used in antipasto.
With these three aspects of the dish in mind I took myself to Google.it to do a little investigation in Italy.
After a little research I came upon a number of excellent variations. Not only did I find several versions of penne with mushrooms and peas but I came across a no small number of recipes that included a significant upgrade, the addition of prosciutto or ham. Now, of course, the use of the ham moves the recipe out of the meatless zone, but it certainly does make a big difference. There is something about the sweetness of the ham that marries perfectly with peas. If you don’t have pancetta handy you can easily use bacon, or if possible a piece of ham that you cube. One curious part of the Italian recipes is that I found none that used ricotta as Lidia had done. Many of them used cream. All of them used parmesan or Romano as a finish.
Here’s a video of a version. It’s in a mixture of Italian and English. You can get the point.
For the pasta in this recipe you can use any more substantial type such as penne or rotini or even a wide papardelle. One thing I found is that for this recipe, for a better texture blend, I let the pasta cook just a hair beyond al dente. Just don’t let it overcook and get soft. So, here below is my variation of pasta with ricotta, mushrooms and peas where I have combined all the elements.
Dice the ham, or bacon or pancetta.Set it aside.
Dice the mushrooms and set aside.
Add the onions and sautee until they begin to clarify but do not brown. Keep the heat at medium or lower.
Add the peas. If they are frozen too hard, put them in the microwave to thaw a bit. But do not cook them in advance. They will cook in the pan.
Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer.
At this point, while the pasta is boiling, add the ricotta cheese to the mushrooms and peas. Stir it in well.
You can also add a bit or grated cheese.
Dice the onion and set aside.
Add a very small amount of olive oil to the pan over medium heat. Sautee the bacon but do not let it brown and crisp.
Add the mushrooms and sautee until they begin to soften.
Fill a large pot with water. Add a good bit of salt.
Add the pasta of your choice.
Boil to just a hair beyond "al dente."
Use a spider or other sieve type tool to ladle the pasta into the mushrooms, cheese and peas. Stir well and let the pasta simmer for another few minutes.
Add pepper and salt to taste.