Pesto Pasta with Peas and Ricotta Salata

Pesto pasta with peas and ricotta salata

I recently bought a bit of ricotta salata cheese at Di Raimondo’s Italian Market, a great local cheese shop located in Paso Robles, California.  Ricotta salata has the same basis as the ricotta you are probably thinking of – the delicious soft cheese that is used in lasagna – but ricotta salata is salted and aged, and it has a texture similar to feta.  Personally, ricotta salata doesn’t do anything for me on its own…BUT. In pastas and salads, it is amazing.  Inspired by this recipe from The Kitchn, I knew just what to do with it.

Pasta is something that can get very unhealthy, very easily.  In the past few years I have come to master the art of keeping pasta low-cal and healthy.

How to Keep Pasta Healthy:

1. What you get in a restaurant is not – I repeat not! – a normal serving size. Most pasta dishes probably should feed like six people.  A good tip for dining out is to eat half and get the rest to go.  This is better for the waistline and the bank account, because a large entree can make a couple more meals!  Yess.

2. When cooking pasta at home, a typical serving size is two ounces, which is more than it sounds like!  Pay attention to nutrition labels to make sure you aren’t overdoing it.

3. Add veggies! This is a very low-cal way to eat a lot more, bulk-wise, and it gets some healthy nutrients and fiber in there, too, so your body will thank you and you’ll stay fuller longer.

4. Fat isn’t bad if it is healthy fat.  A tablespoon of olive oil adds flavor, good-for-you fat, and (bonus!) fat helps you stay fuller, longer!  You can sautee garlic in olive oil, use it in pesto, add it to flavor tomato or other sauce, and even just have plain pasta and olive oil with a bit of Parmesan.  Yum!

5. Not all pasta is created equal. For a non-special occasions, I use Barilla Plus Pasta – it is made with legumes, egg whites, and whole grains, so it has more protein and fiber than regular pasta…so it’s not as carb-y and the taste isn’t much different.  I wish it came in a larger variety of shapes, but I’ll take what I can get.

Generally, I bring pasta for lunch at work.  It’s easy to make the night before, versatile, and cheap. I love making different types of sauces or adding different types of veggies, which also keeps things interesting.

Pesto Pasta with Peas and Ricotta Salata
inspired by The Kitchn

1/2 pound dry pasta
2 cups fresh or frozen (defrosted) peas
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves (note: older leaves make a bitter pesto.  Look for smaller, light green “baby” leaves!)
1/4 pound ricotta salata, shaved into shards or crumbled
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Using a mortar and pestle (or in a food processor or blender), grind up basil, garlic, and olive oil.  Pine nuts or walnuts can also be added – there are lots of pesto recipes online, please experiment!

Meanwhile, put a pot water on to boil.  When it boils, salt well and add pasta.  Cook according to package directions, and in the last 30 seconds of cooking, add the peas to the pot.

Drain and toss with pesto. Top with shards of ricotta salata and a few cracks of pepper.

Have fun reheating this for lunch and making your coworkers crave pesto ;)

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