I’ll be honest, if I’d told my kids the very first time that I was serving them ricotta cheese with their pasta they’d probably have screwed their noses up – or at least, the ringleader would have and the other two would have followed.
But when I said we were having ‘creamy’ pasta? Different reaction entirely! And after they had tasted it once and requested it another time, they were okay with knowing they liked ricotta cheese – at least on pasta [cue eye roll from me].
This recipe is a super fast, one dish meal that gets a tasty pasta dish to the table without all the guilt you might associate with serving up creamy sauces.
Can creamy be healthy?
Here’s what Dairy Australia says about ricotta cheese:
Ricotta cheese, like all types of cheese, is a great source of calcium and provides a range of other essential nutrients including vitamin A, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B12, Vitamin K, iodine, phosphorus, selenium and zinc.
But then they have to be nice, right? So the next thing you need to know is that ricotta is a ‘fresh’ cheese and therefore ranked by nutritionists as one of the leanest and highest in protein in the whole cheese department. There’s a great article about it here on Good Food Australia.
Optional but nice
There are a number of optional items in this recipe, but it will taste great plain too. If it’s one of those nights where it’s a choice between a plate of vegemite toast or this pasta, at least you’ll know they got a good whack of protein out of the ricotta you added to the pasta!
I frequently add a vegetable to pasta towards the end of a cook but they need to be already small, like peas, or chopped fairly small so they will not take too long to cook. It’s a bit mad to get out a second pot of boiling water when you’ve got a great big one on the stove, after all.
The trick with cutting out a separate veg cooking pan is to estimate how long the veg will take to cook and subtract that time from the overall pasta cooking time.
If the pasta would normally take about 10 minutes to cook, and you’re adding frozen peas that take about three minutes to cook, set a timer for seven minutes after you’ve added the pasta to the water and put your peas in then.
Frozen veg added to boiling water will slow the cooking process down a bit more than fresh, but you can bring it up to speed faster by adding a lid until you hear the water rumbling away underneath again.
Other vegetables that work well in this ricotta creamy sauce are spinach (frozen chopped or fresh baby leaves), broccoli (chopped small – don’t worry about preserving the floret shape) or fresh green beans. Experiment!
Kitchen kid jobs
Here are some jobs I would potentially give to kids for this recipe, but you know yours best.
- Fetch and return ingredients from pantry or fridge.
- Add salt to the pasta water before it boils.
- Set a timer to check the pasta.
- Taste test the frozen peas (if used – lots of kids will get a kick out of eating frozen and it’s just as healthy).
- Scoop ricotta onto pasta (with supervision over the hot food).
- Grate or shake nutmeg (if used).
- Set the table.
A guilt-free creamy pasta that comes together within 15 minutes and only one pot to wash up!
- 500g pack of dried pasta, any shape (or the amount your family normally eats)
- About 200g ricotta cheese – light or full fat
- Salt for pasta water and to taste before serving.
- Optional – 200g frozen peas or other green vegetables, nutmeg, parmesan
- Bring a large pot of water to boil, adding a tablespoon or so of salt.
- Cook pasta according to directions and set a timer – times change according to pasta shapes.
- If adding peas, set the timer for 3 minutes BEFORE the end of the pasta cook and put them into the pasta water then. Reset the timer.
- Make sure both pasta and peas (if using) are cooked before draining most of the water away. Leave a few spoonfuls of water in the bottom of the pasta pot.
- Immediately return pasta (and peas) to the pot and add the ricotta cheese and stir well to incorporate the pasta water.
- Taste the pasta and ricotta mix and add some seasoning if you wish: if using nutmeg, grate or shake some in now.
- Serve it up – offering parmesan cheese at the table if you like.
If you have a determinedly carnivorous family, bacon or ham goes very well with this mix. A low mess approach is to put some chopped bacon between layers of paper towel and microwave it for a few minutes, checking every 30-40 seconds for doneness.
If you’ve not yet discovered how great freshly grated nutmeg is, now’s the time to try. Unlike other spices, whole nutmegs last for years and years and you only grate a little off the side each time. I just use a normal small holed grater. Try just a sprinkle at first, as it can be quite strong and you can’t take it away once it’s in the cheese!