Egg Noodles with Ricotta, Lemon, Mint, and Peas

Yesterday was the first day of spring, and it’s now…let me check my phone…26 degrees Fahrenheit here in Boston. We’ve all been craving the sunshine, the green grass, the blossoms, and the spring harvest. Winter brings us squash and citrus, but gosh do I miss those colorful farmers markets, those bright, fresh flavors. I needed a boost after being plunged into the cold for months, so I went to the grocery store and found fresh mint. One whiff of this beautiful herb brings images of summer to my mind’s eye.

Right before I traveled to England in 2011 to study abroad in Oxford, I watched Jamie at Home every day. Jamie Oliver is one of my favorite chefs of all time for several reasons. He has a knack for pairing flavors together in the most beautifully simple way. The one flavor trio that stood out most was his use of lemon, mint, and chili. Look to his courgette salad recipe for an example of this. Mint and citrus are made for each other, and that extra kick at the end from the chili adds an unexpected warmth. Amazing.

This past weekend my boyfriend and I ate dinner at The Haven, a Scottish pub in Jamaica Plain, MA. One of their signature sides is minty mushed peas. Oh my heavens. Chopped mint made those creamy peas the most refreshing mashed vegetable in the world.

So, with these inspirations in mind, I wanted to create a dish that put lemon, mint, peas, and chili together. Behold:

Egg Noodles with Ricotta, Lemon, Mint, and Peas
Egg Noodles with Ricotta, Lemon, Mint, and Peas

 Egg Noodles with Ricotta, Lemon, Mint, and Peas

Serves 2

  • 1 pound egg noodles (I recommend Pennsylvania Dutch Extra Wide)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (about 1/4 cup per person)
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 9 mint leaves, chopped
  • a pinch to 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (you can use fresh red chili if you wish)
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Put the frozen peas in a pan. Take a garlic press and crush one clove of garlic, adding that garlic to the pan.

2. Add olive oil to the pan and turn the heat up to medium. Season the peas with salt and pepper to your taste. Let the peas sizzle in the pan until fully thawed. Turn off the heat and set aside.

3. Fill a large pot with water and heat until boiling.

4. As the pasta water heats up, wash the mint leaves and either chop them with a sharp knife or rip them into pieces with your fingers for less bruising. Add these mint leaves to a bowl along with the lemon zest and lemon juice. If you do not have a mortar and pestle (I don’t!), take the back of a spoon and press or “muddle” the mint and lemon against the side of the bowl. This allows the juices in the mint to come out and mix more readily with the lemon juice.

5. Add the ricotta cheese to the mint and lemon and mix until fully incorporated. Add the cayenne pepper (or fresh red chili) and salt; mix until combined. Set aside.

6. When the water begins to boil, add the egg noodles and cook until al dente.

7. Add drained pasta back into the pot and mix with the sauteed peas and garlic.

8. Spoon the pasta into bowls and top with the lemon mint ricotta cheese mixture. Mix it all together.

And there you have it! A pasta dish so creamy yet so refreshing. Spring is here—celebrate with good food. Happy cooking!

 

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“The Bomb” Ice Cream Sundae — A Tribute to My Grandmother

My grandmother, my Italian Nonna, passed away a few weeks ago.

Memories with Nonna
Memories with Nonna

Nonna Joanne was a fount of confidence, faith, and joy. A meticulous organizer, my Nonna was the boss, the life of the party. Nothing mischievous could get past her. I’ll always remember her laugh, her voice on the phone as she always, without fail, told me how proud of me she was. Though we were only able to see my grandparents twice a year, my Nonna took full advantage of her visits with us. We would play cards together for hours. While she had me and my two sisters at the table, she would chat with us about our lives. The most important lesson she taught me was how to be assertive. There is a way to stand up for yourself without being aggressive or terribly passive. In those chats with her, I learned how to be proud of myself and how to never let anyone else’s mean behavior get in the way of my happiness.

In our summer visits to Massachusetts, it was tradition for me, my sisters, and Nonna to make an ice cream sundae she affectionately titled “The Bomb.” We’d be watching television in the library after dinner, and then suddenly she would say “let’s make the bomb!” We knew exactly what she meant. Down we went to the kitchen, where we grabbed the necessary sweets for this scrumptious concoction.

Nonna Joanne and I, with "The Bomb" Ice Cream Sundae
Nonna Joanne and I, with “The Bomb” Ice Cream Sundae

First, we had to have a fudgy brownie on the bottom. We usually used vanilla ice cream, but moose tracks was an extra special treat. Spoon hot fudge sauce on top of that, lather on the whipped cream, and then top off the sundae with a maraschino cherry or a “truffle” as my Nonna called it. In this picture it looks like we put an Oreo on top!

Though my Nonna is no longer with us in body, she is most definitely with us in spirit. She lives on in my heart as a woman who celebrated life and all of its infinite joys. Ice cream sundaes were one of those little joys she wished to share with her granddaughters.

I made “The Bomb” ice cream sundae yesterday in tribute to her. The sundae may seem simplistic to some, but for me the process of making it fills me with the sweetest of memories.

"The Bomb" Ice Cream Sundae
“The Bomb” Ice Cream Sundae

“The Bomb” Ice Cream Sundae

  • 1 fudgy brownie (You owe it to yourself to make Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownies. I use no other brand.)
  • 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream (Any flavor will do, but I prefer something vanilla based for this sundae.)
  • hot fudge sauce
  • whipped cream
  • 1 maraschino cherry, Oreo cookie, or “truffle”

1. Make one batch of brownies. You can use your own recipe. If you use a brownie mix, buy Ghirardelli. You will not be sorry.

2. Take one brownie (as big as you want), and place in a bowl.

3. Top the brownie with one scoop of vanilla ice cream.

4. Warm hot fudge in the microwave per the package’s instructions. If you make your own, even better!

5. Pour the desired amount of hot fudge on top of the ice cream and brownie.

6. Add your desired amount of whipped cream on top.

7. Finally, top the sundae with a maraschino cherry, Oreo, or “truffle”

The sundae is simple, and simple is best in this case. Everyone’s sundae will come out differently, and that’s the point. Making “The Bomb” sundae allowed my sisters and I to celebrate our uniqueness. Who knew making ice cream sundaes could be so profound?

Here’s to you, Nonna Joanne. Thank you for influencing the woman I have become. Thank you for making the best ice cream sundaes in the world with me. They are, truly, “the bomb.”