Easy Italian Recipes
The countdown to Turkey Day is on! Less than 24 hours to go, and families all over America will be sitting down to that most American of meals: Thanksgiving dinner. Centerpiece of the meal is a gigantic turkey surrounded by mounds of mashed potatoes and stuffing, with side dishes of green beans, various salads, dinner rolls, boats of gravy and cranberries galore. Top it all off with apple or pumpkin pie and things can’t get any more traditional than that. Italians would call this una grande abbuffata – a big feast or blow-out meal – and fortunately for your waistline, it only comes around once a year!
The amount of stove-time needed to prepare such a big holiday feast is considerable so to lighten the load a bit, our Italian recipe for Thanksgiving Week is a quick and easy pasta dish that you can whip up in a matter of minutes, using only four main ingredients. Pasta with Ricotta, Capers and Thyme (pasta con ricotta, capperi e timo) is easy on the palate, too, with the tart and briny flavor of the capers giving a real kick to the bland, creamy ricotta. It’s a recipe to make all year round, whenever you’re in a hurry and want to get a tasty dinner on the table fast.
Do You Know What A Caper Is?
Capers are the key to the savory deliciousness of this pasta dish but what, exactly, is a caper? The plant whose Latin name is capparis spinosa grows all over the Mediterranean, especially in Southern Italy and Greece. Every year in springtime, the plant creates a bud that eventually turns into a pretty purple and white flower, however, if you pick the bud before it does, it’s a caper. The very best caper buds are said to come from the small island of Pantelleria off the southwestern coast of Sicily. Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani has a vacation house on Pantelleria (there’s a new, modern church on the island for which Armani designed and provided the priest’s vestments). Most people who go to Italy don’t make it to Pantelleria, but I’ve picked up some excellent capers at the colorful outdoor market in the Sicilian town of Siracusa. And capers are widely available in the US; almost any gourmet grocery store will have capers from Pantelleria in stock (or buy them online).
Like olives, capers need to be cured to be edible, either by the dry method or the wet. Caper buds can be mixed with good, coarse salt; you can mix them with salt and water, making a brine; or you can mix them with salt, water and vinegar. Many chefs feel that the intensity of the dry, salt-cured capers is much better and that’s the kind called for here. Just make sure you soak them in cold water for 10 minutes, and then rinse them again to get rid of as much excess salt as possible. So for a taste of Sicily, next time you’re at the grocery store pick up some capers and fresh ricotta cheese and try this simple pasta recipe, courtesy of La Cucina Italiana.
Recipe for Pasta with Ricotta, Capers & Thyme
Ingredients for 4 servings
• Kosher salt
• 1 pound strozzapreti or other short pasta like bowties
• ¾ pound fresh ricotta cheese
• ¾ cup, plus 2 tablespoons low-fat milk
• ¼ cup salt-packed capers, rinsed, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes, then rinsed again
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or a pinch of dried thyme
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. While pasta is cooking, heat ricotta and milk in a large skillet over medium-low heat, stirring, until warmed through. Add capers and season generously with pepper. Remove from heat.
When pasta is ready, drain and return to pot; immediately toss with oil. Add ricotta sauce, place over medium-heat and stir to combine and heat through, about 1 minute.
Season to taste with salt. Immediately divide pasta among plates, sprinkle with thyme and black pepper and serve.
What is your favorite Italian pasta recipe? Share your Italian recipes with us!