I have lived in Boston my entire life, and yet, I still can't get used to the weather. Ninety-plus degrees and sunny during the Aquapocalypse, now so rainy and cold that I all I want to do is set up camp on my couch, crawl under a blanket, and wait for the 5+ hours of Lost-related television on Sunday night. It's days like these that leave me wanting pasta.
But I'm tired of the heavy pasta dishes that get me through the winter. Lasagna and meat sauces aren't very spring-y. But herbs (albeit not from my own garden yet) and lemon combine with creamy ricotta cheese in a dish that lets me remember that better weather is yet to come.
I threw this dish together on a whim and couldn't be happier with how it turned out. The herbs and lemon are what give the exciting Spring-y flavor, while the creaminess from the cheese is what you want from a comforting pasta bake. I used gemelli for the pasta, but you can use any short shape that is twisty or has a hole, so it can grab the sauce. The recipe is a bit loose on exact amounts because it's so easy to make exactly how you want - want it less creamy? Use less ricotta. More herbs? Go for it. No meat? It's tasty without it (I made it both ways).
Lemon Ricotta Pasta Bake
1 pound gemelli pasta
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 ounces prosciutto, torn into small pieces
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350°. Cook pasta according to package.
While pasta is cooking, combine ricotta, lemon zest, basil, parsley, prosciutto, and salt and pepper (to taste) in a large bowl. Mix well until incorporated. When pasta is done cooking, drain and immediately add to ricotta mixture and toss to coat. Pour mixture into a baking dish, top with a good layer of grated parmesan cheese, and pour lemon juice over the top. Bake 15-20 minutes. If the top doesn't brown while cooking, turn the broiler on for a few minutes at the end until it turns a golden brown.