Broccoli helper

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Broccoli-Ricotta Pasta Toss

Frozen, bagged pasta meals are available in supermarkets. Although these packages make a quick family dinner, you can whip up a more healthful alternative in about the same time with this broccoli-ricotta pasta toss.

Whole wheat noodles, fresh broccoli and reduced-fat ricotta cheese combine for a wholesome family meal that can be on the table in less than 20

minutes.

There are three tips for getting this pasta onto the table quickly without leaving a lot of dishes to clean up. First, the pasta, broccoli and sliced garlic are all cooked in the same pot. Simmering the garlic in the pasta water mellows its flavor a bit.

The second tip is to save a little of the pasta water so that you can thin the sauce to your desired consistency.

The third tip is ricotta cheese. When you toss it with the hot noodles and a little of the pasta water, it makes a work-free sauce.

You can flavor the sauce with fresh lemon zest and basil, but you can also add crushed red pepper flakes for a little heat. A sprinkling of parmesan cheese and toasted almonds or pine nuts add flavor and crunch.

Sliced tomatoes drizzled with your favorite vinaigrette complete your menu.


Broccoli-Ricotta Pasta Toss

1 12-ounce box whole wheat or whole grain penne pasta

16 ounces fresh broccoli florets

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 green onions (green tops included), thinly sliced

15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

½ cup chopped fresh basil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Optional garnishes: Shredded Parmesan cheese and toasted almonds or pine nuts

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook according to package directions. Add the broccoli florets and sliced garlic when there are 3 to 4 minutes left to the pasta cooking time. When the pasta is done, remove 1 cup of the pasta water from the pot and then drain the pasta and broccoli.

Return the drained pasta and broccoli to the pot. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss in the green onions. Stir in the ricotta cheese, lemon juice and zest and season with the salt and pepper. Add ½ cup of the pasta water and stir until the ricotta is creamy. Add more pasta water if a creamier sauce is desired. Toss in the basil, taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Garnish each serving with some of the parmesan and toasted almonds or pine nuts, if desired.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Coming next week: Ravioli with creamed spinach sauce is a quick entrée made from ingredients from the grocer's freezer section.

Write to Karin Calloway in care of The Augusta Chronicle Newsroom, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903, or karin.calloway@comcast.net.

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