Ricotta is one the simplest and oldest Italian cheese, traditionally made with sheep milk, but more commonly found in stores made from cow or mixed types of milk.
Until not too long ago, in the countryside around Rome, it was not unusual to find large flocks of sheeps grazing the grassy hills, while often the shepherds would make and sell fresh ricotta to travellers passing by near roads packed in small baskets of handwoven dried grass; sometimes just wrapped in fig or grape leaves. In some areas of southern Italy, like in Calabria, salt is added to the ricotta, which is then let to rest on racks, traditionally suspended above the fireplace, where it will age and become Ricotta Affumicata, firm with a sharp and lightly smoked flavor.
Ingredients and Instructions (serves 5-6):
- 1 pound of fresh baby spinach
- 1 1/2 cups of ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 red onion
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup of grated Romano cheese
- 1 pound of spaghetti pasta
- Unless specified on the package as pre-washed and ready to use, wash the baby spinach and let drain over a towel.
- Meanwhile, slice the red onion, rather fine; heat the olive oil in a large skillet or pan over medium heat, add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender and slightly translucent.
- Add to the skillet the spinach, a pinch of salt and pepper, the nutmeg and cook another 2-3 minutes, until the spinach become wilted.
- Add the ricotta, the grated Romano cheese to the skillet, stir gently to combine with the rest of the ingredients and let heat through.
- Cook the spaghetti, in a tall pot with abundant salted water, until al dente. Drain and add to the skillet with the spinach and ricotta sauce, sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and toss well.
- Serve at once.
Wine pairing suggestion: an Italian white, Bianco di Custoza or Vernaccia di San Gimignano, is my wine of choice for this pasta with ricotta and spinach, as well as an American Chardonnay.
Cinzia Aversa, 2013