Gemelli with Asparagus, Ricotta, Arugula, and Lemon Zest

Where's the water? Check out the science behind this cooking method here.

Note: Use a high quality ricotta cheese for this recipe. Check the ingredients label—it should contain nothing but milk, salt, and an acid or starter enzyme. Avoid any brand that uses gums or stabilizers.

About the author: After graduating from MIT, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt spent many years as a chef, recipe developer, writer, and editor in Boston. He now lives in New York with his wife, where he runs a private chef business, KA Cuisine, and co-writes the blog GoodEater.org about sustainable food enjoyment.

Gemelli with Asparagus, Ricotta, Arugula, and Lemon Zest

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About This Recipe

This recipe appears in: The Food Lab: A New Way to Cook Pasta?

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound of gemelli, fusilli, rotini or any other medium-thickness short pasta
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 cups loosely packed baby arugula leaves
  • 2 ounces finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving tableside

Procedures

  1. 1

    Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed sauce pot over high heat until just starting to smoke. Add asparagus pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender-crisp and lightly browned. Season asparagus to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to bowl, and set aside. Do not clean sauce pot.

  2. 2

    In a medium saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and stir immediately. Allow to return to a boil, stir once vigorously, cover pot, and shut off heat. After one minute, stir one last time. Recover pot. Follow timing on box as a general guide for cooking time—start checking pasta 2 minutes before suggested cooking time and continue checking every minute until proper al dente texture is reached. Pasta should be fully softened, but retain a slight bite in the center. Drain pasta, reserving 2 cups of cooking liquid. Immediately transfer pasta to empty sauce pot from cooking asparagus.

  3. 3

    Add asparagus, ricotta, lemon zest, arugula, grated cheese, and a few big twists of black pepper to the pasta. Add 1 cup pasta water and stir until all ingredients are combined and arugula has wilted. Continue adding pasta water until desired consistency is reached (the ricotta should turn into a creamy sauce that coats the noodles). Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately, passing more grated cheese at the table.

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