the appetizer:

Though there are many individual regional cuisines in Italy, northern and southern Italian cuisines are primarily differentiated by the cooking fat and style of pasta commonly used. Northern Italian cuisine (other than on the coast) favors butter, cream, polenta, Mascarpone, Grana Padano, and Parmigiano cheeses, risotto and fresh egg pasta. Southern Italian cuisine tends toward Mozzarella, Caciocavallo and Pecorino cheeses, olive oil and dried pasta. Southern Italian cuisine also makes greater use of the ubiquitous tomato.

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Penne with Ricotta, Lemon and Basil
(Penne con Ricotta, Limone e Basilico)

Serves 4

A very refreshing pasta, wonderful followed by a salad of mixed leaves with plenty of fennel, carrots, spring onions (scallions) and maybe the red onion frittata. This is a light summer dinner to impress all vegetarian friends, and it can be prepared in under half an hour. Remember to buy the freshest ricotta available.

200 g / 7 oz (scant 1 cup) fresh ricotta cheese
Thinly pared zest of lemon, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A generous amount of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
400 g / 14 oz penne or any dried pasta
50 g / 2 oz (1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano Extra Virgin olive oil for drizzling

In a large bowl heat the ricotta with the lemon zest using a balloon whisk, adding salt, black pepper and the basil. Cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted boiling water. Add a ladle of water from the pasta to the ricotta mixture to moisten it a little and then place the bowl over the pasta pan for a few minutes to soften the mixture. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and mix with the ricotta. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Italian Country Cooking
by Susanna Gelmetti
Illustrations by Robert Budwig
Ten Speed Press, 1996
$16.95, paper, 128 pages
ISBN: 0-89815-828-1
Reprinted with permission


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This page modified January 2007