Lemon Butter Pasta with Sweet Peas, Mint and Whipped Ricotta
This is one of the easiest, yet most decadent spring dishes that you could possibly make from home. It emits Michelin-star restaurant quality vibes — it looks beautiful on a plate, it seems elevated, it is unique, and truly a special experience. But in reality, it’s a dish that takes only 30 minutes and truly anyone can make. We’re even using the microwave for a part of this recipe…. that’s how simple it is. If you’re a visual learner, I’ve made a YouTube video of this recipe from start to finish to make your life as easy as possible.
So how did I come up with this idea to put lemon butter pasta on a bed of whipped ricotta??? Well, it’s inspired by a pasta dish I enjoyed with my husband in NYC back in 2017. It was on a gorgeous spring day in New York City and the weather was getting nice. My (now) husband and I went out to dinner and enjoyed a delicious meal at a restaurant called La Pecora Bianca and we ordered this light, airy, springy pasta with lemon butter, fluffy cheese, peas and mint. We’ve both never forgotten the flavors of that dish…maybe it was just the overall beautiful day and great date….but I don’t remember anything else we ate from that dinner (and we ate a lot) so I’m convinced it was the dish itself. I’d always wanted to make something similar at home. Now, four years later, I finally figured out how to make this pasta as elegant, as beautiful, as light, and as precious at home. But not in an intimidating way!
To start with, we’re making whipped ricotta, which seems really intimidating, but (trust me) it’s really not. It’s nothing more than a savory whipped cream. The technique is the same as if you would make whipped cream for dessert, except we’re adding salt instead of sugar. The air in the whipped cream is combined with whole milk ricotta to give it a fluffier, lighter texture. I’ve used this in my whipped ricotta cloud toasts with blistered tomatoes and parsley that you may have seen on my Instagram in December 2020. Linking below because you know your girl can’t resist a good recipe link!
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Once you’ve made the whipped ricotta, the rest is literally easy-peasy. We’ll use the microwave (yep, the microwave) to defrost the peas. Then we toss them with fresh mint and add them to the cooked pasta mixed with the lemon butter sauce. It doesn’t get any simpler than that! When it comes to pasta choices, there are many different options and you can be as creative as you want. Italians traditionally see pasta-making as an art and there are more than 350 types of pasta originating from the 20 different regions in Italy. They’ve been perfecting pasta as far back as 800 BC and the ingredients haven’t changed at all. Flour, water, and an egg for most fresh pastas. You can totally go fresh, homemade pasta here.
OR! You can go with a stuffed pasta for extra power. You can choose a stuffed rigatoni, agnolotti, or tortellini as long as they’re stuffed with something light and not too hearty or intense. Ideally stuffed with a lighter, fluffier cheese, but a vegetable tortellini would go beautifully here as well. I ended up skipping the stuffed pasta and went with a fun shape that really grabbed onto the whipped ricotta in every bite. I went with toscani, also known as gigli, campanelle or gigli toscani. It’s a fun, twirly noodle shaped like a lily. It’s not always easy to find, but you have an abundance of other options when it comes to pasta. You can use a fusilli, a cavatappi or malfadine if you want a longer noodle. By the way, cavatappi is the pasta used in the famous, viral baked feta pasta dish and I used it in my famous spinach artichoke pasta with caramelized onions. If you want to go wild with this, you can go with a mix of stuffed and non-stuffed pasta. Yes, I also tried that and it was incredible.
What if I can’t find some of the ingredients?
This is a playful dish and you can get creative. For example, you can use Meyer lemon for a more floral, citrusy spring vibe. You can also use different kinds of butter like classic unsalted butter, Irish butter, or bufala butter for a milkier flavor. I will say that sticking with high-quality butter is recommended since the butter is essentially the base of our sauce.
Now that I’ve gotten all of that out onto the page, it’s time for the recipe! Of course, you can watch my YouTube video instead of reading it if you are a visual learner. Regardless, enjoy!
|2cups frozen peas|
|1/2cup cold, heavy cream|
|1/2tsp salt (plus more on hand if needed)|
|3/4cup whole milk ricotta|
|1lb pasta of your choice|
|1/4cup cultured butter (can sub regular unsalted)|
|2tsp lemon juice (plus more to taste, if needed)|
|Zest of one whole lemon you can use meyer lemon for extra floral, citrusy notes|
|Grated parmesan, to taste|
|Extra virgin olive oil, for garnish|
|Hand mixer (not necessary but recommended)|
Fill a stockpot with water and salt with 3 tbsp of kosher salt. Set the heat on high heat and let it come to a boil.
Pour the frozen peas into a microwave-safe bowl. Pour water on top of the peas and microwave for 1 minute, until bright green and no longer frozen. Drain the water out of the bowl.
Remove the mint leaves from the stems. Reserve 5-6 large leaves for topping, then finely chop the rest of the mint.
Mix the finely chopped mint with the peas. Add a pinch of salt and toss until the peas are combined with the mint and salt. Set aside.
Pour the heavy cream into a mixing bowl. Add the salt and mix until combined. Whip the heavy cream with a hand mixer on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.
Strain excess water from the ricotta with a fine mesh strainer. Once it’s as creamy as possible, add it to the bowl with the whipped cream.
For the lemon butter, I just use regular lemons and I use cultured butter as it has a tangier, brighter flavor. This is up to interpretation and you can adapt all of this.
If you want to use Meyer lemon it will give you a more floral, citrusy, spring vibe.
You can also use regular butter, Irish butter. Whichever butter you like. A bufala butter could add funkiness to it. Just have fun with it, but a high-quality butter matters for a recipe like this because it is the base of our sauce.