Banning Ricotta, Sorry Giada
I’ve made a whole bunch of pasta salads in the past few years, each of them slightly different. Some with a pesto flare, others dressed in extra virgin, dijon and lots of veggies. And many variations in between, although never including mayo.
This most recent pasta salad was during my friend Julie’s wedding weekend, where one of the nights was dedicated to a grill session in her HUGE backyard. I also realized I sucked at badminton, but that’s another story, just ask 80.
Earlier in the day I stopped by a farmers market in Jersey and picked up squash and zucchini to be grilled for the pasta salad. (Okay, now I was chatting with someone about this but we never found the conclusion, I’m hoping someone out there can help – zucchini is a squash, right? And if so, why don’t the yellow squashes have their own name. There are tons of other squashes with proper names – butternut, spaghetti, acorn…Why not the yellow squash?)
Okay, so I have the veggie, but I still haven’t decided on the sauce for the salad. I automatically think to use feta, but decide to go to the grocery store and see what hits me. I’m in the dairy aisle picking up sour cream for DAD GANSIE (my mom accidentally heated up his container in the microwave) and I stumble upon ricotta. I’m not super familiar with the cheese, expect for in lasagnas, and every time I watch Giada’s show. I dial up my chef-on-call, BS, and ask if he thinks ricotta will work in my dish. We all know BS is game for anything, and without hesitation, he said to try it.
Now, the rest of the post is not meant to knock BS or anything, because he surely didn’t know about the massacre that I would soon create with the cheese he just gave the go-ahead.
This is also not a recipe, because I do not think you should try this at home. But I will tell you what happened.
I added in dollops of ricotta to just cooked/still hot pasta. The pasta, um, I don’t know, kinda sucked up the ricotta and barely left any flavor. With salt, pepper, extra virgin, scallions, garlic, pre-grated blend of parm reggiano and pecorino romano – it still kinda sucked. The ricotta kept melting and just left a grainy texture. I said – fuck it, wrapped it up and took it to the bbq.
I had Gary (Jules’ now *husband*) grill up the squash and I retossed the pasta with oil. The pasta is now room temp so I added in more spoonfuls of the cheese. My vision for the salad was soft clumps of cheese, creamy noodles and bits of grilled squash. It started to get better now that the ricotta didn’t disinigrate, but I just refused to live up to my dream. I do hope you enjoy the pic from 80, but DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. But if you do, please let me know how you turned this into a success.
If you bought a container of the soft ricotta that you find in the supermarket (Polly-O, Sargento, Sorrento, etc.), the odds of making something that measured up to what you were envisioning were somewhere between slim and none.
Ricotta is a whey cheese – it’s made from the liquid that comes out when you’re making traditional cheese – so it tends to dissolve more than melt when exposed to hot food (or heat in general).
If you want to use a ricotta in a salad (pasta or otherwise), your best bet is ricotta salata – a pressed and salted version of the cheese that has a texture more like feta and a definite salty taste. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the same creamy softness as fresh ricotta.
Wiki says: Squashes generally refer to four species of the genus Cucurbita native to the Mexico and Central America, also called marrows depending on variety or the nationality of the speaker. In North America, squash is loosely grouped into summer squash or winter squash, as well as autumn squash (another name is cheese squash) depending on whether they are harvested as immature fruits (summer squash) or mature fruits (autumn squash or winter squash). Gourds are from the same family as squashes. Well known types of squash include the pumpkin and zucchini.
So a yellow squash is an immature member of the genus Cucurbita and a variety of the cucurbita pepo species. basically summer squashes come in a variety of colors (green and yellow). The green things we call zucchini and the yellow things we call yellow straightneck. But scientifically speaking they are the same thing and should just be called Cucurbita pepos… (just like humans come in different colors but are all homo sapiens). get it?
I betcha queso blanco would have worked better. It’s less wattery and it melts into soft lumps….
gonna have to stand up for ricotta here. If you use good ricotta I find it adds an extra creaminess to the pasta dish (although I haven’t done it cold). I guess the thing is it’s more of a creamy addition, not a flavorful stand-out…I would mix it in more completely, just to give the whole thing a creaminess, than maybe still use your feta for the flavor burst…
I’m with BS on this one- think og it like a soft goat cheese without the tang. it adds creaminess to pasta and (at the risk of sounding like a food snob asshole) a really rich mouth feel (again, I can’t believe I just said that, but there it is.) The Kitchn has a great recipe for pasta with a lemony ricotta sauce with loads of basil- i bet it would have worked with the grilled squash.
Also, one of my friends pitched a terminology induced hissy fit when I referred to a zucchini as a squash. Even though, technically, I was correct.
cooking is confusing?