Tennis, Anyone?

On a grocery trip about a month ago I came across a pasta called racchette.  Literally, the pasta noodles are little tennis rackets!  I’ve been saving them for a fun dish, but nothing emerged from my recipe files that was particularly appealing, so I broke down and used them in this cheesy meal:

Pasta with Broccoli and Ricotta


Salt and pepper 
1 1/2 bunches broccoli (about 1 1/2 lb. total), cut into florets, stems reserved for another use
1 pound medium shells or penne
1 1/2 cups ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan 
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest 
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil 
4 cloves garlic, minced

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add broccoli and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to a bowl. Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente, 10 to 13 minutes or as package label directs.

2. While pasta is cooking, combine ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest and thyme in a medium bowl. Warm oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broccoli, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 1 minute longer.

3. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Return to pot and stir in broccoli and ricotta mixture, adding cooking water to moisten as necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

I used the broccoli stems and florets.  I slivered them all pretty thinly so they were bite-sized or smaller.  A trick I learned from Cooking Light Magazine is to cook your pasta first and throw any veggies in for the last few minutes of cooking time, whether they are fresh or frozen.  For this recipe, since the broccoli was also being sauteed before being added to the pasta, I ended up steaming it for a few minutes instead.  It was easier than trying to fish the tiny pieces out of the pot before using the same water to cook the pasta.

This is another quick and easy recipe, but upon tasting, I felt the ricotta sauce was really bland.  I added another teaspoon of lemon zest, which helped, but I think heating the ricotta with a little milk and mozzarella or Parmesan would make a big difference for the flavor and texture of this dish.  Overall, the texture of the ricotta made the noodles clumpy, instead of being bathed in sauce like a good pasta should.


Verdict: I’d try this again, but with more vegetables and a jazzier sauce.  I still have some racchette noodles left in the box, so stay tuned for another whimsical pasta dish in the near future!


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