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Rigatoni with Cracked Black Pepper, Basil, and Fresh Ricotta

By: Chef Richard          Category: Pasta          Makes: 4 servings

In this loose adaptation of a classic Italian dish, a touch of cream added to ricotta cheese effortlessly turns it into a rich and homogenous sauce. Against this backdrop, a trio of complementary ingredients-black pepper, basil, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, all of which are usually called on as finishing touches-become the center of attention. As with any recipe that features only a handful of ingredients, the quality of each one is crucial here.

Ingredients:

  • Coarse salt
  • 12 ounces dried rigatoni
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ⅔ cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 4 teaspoons chopped chives
  • ¼ cup basil chiffonade
  • 8 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1 cup grated, the rest left intact for grating at the table
  • 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic

Instructions:

  • Set a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring it to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes
  • Meanwhile, pour the cream into a small pot and warm it over low heat. Put the ricotta in a bowl, and whisk in the warmed cream. Add half the chives, half the basil, and the grated Parmigiano. Season with salt and the cracked pepper.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until it turns golden, approximately 2 minutes. Drain the rigatoni, add it to the pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and toss. Season to taste with salt.
  • Toss the pasta with half of the ricotta/herb mixture, and divide it among individual warmed plates or bowls. Spoon some of the remaining mixture over each serving, sprinkle with the rest of the basil and chives, and serve. Pass the remaining Parmigiano at the table, with a grater, inviting everyone to grate extra cheese over his or her serving.

Note: You want cracked rather than ground black pepper here: adjust the tension on your mill’s knob if possible, or use a mortar and pestle to crack whole peppercorns.