Hail Mary!


Strawberry chive ricotta pasta with crispy prosciutto
Photography by Matt Hocking

Saturday, July 30, 2011 was well in the 90’s, hot and humid here in Washington, DC. Standing on a patch of dirt, without a tent, I gave my first live cooking demo. That was the easy part.

I came back the next week and cooked again, excited by the success of my first out. Armed with a fresh batch of four recipes – with a vinaigrette over fresh greens ready to fill in any long stretches while dishes finished cooking – I cooked for three hours, noticing lots of familiar faces from the previous week.

The following week I saw many of those same faces – local residents who shopped at the market each Saturday – and realized that, if I was going to keep giving these demos week after week, I was going to need four new recipes each week. At first it was easy. I had a deep repertoire of preparations for summer’s zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and eggplant. Then came the fall with a whole new palate of ingredients. By the middle of the next summer, however, I spotted a problem. I was running out of ideas.

jonathan bardzik in test kitchen developing the recipe for pasta with strawberries ricotta and chives
Photography by Matt Hocking

Enter the hail Mary pass. Every once in a while I throw out an ingredient pairing, an oddball spice or cooking technique, and give it a try. Sometimes they were interesting, tasty but not begging for frequent repetition. Once it was a total disaster – you never need to try stir-fried rhubarb, trust me. And sometimes, sometimes that Hail Mary pass delivers a touchdown, an odd-sounding but delicious recipe I want to surprise audiences with again and again and again.

That’s the story behind strawberries, chives, ricotta cheese and crispy prosciutto. I know that fruit and pasta sounds odd, but remember that strawberries, especially those early in the season (or any bought at the grocery store) tend to be lighter on sugar and their acidity brightens up the rich flavors in the dish delivering divine balance. I’ve easily served it to over 30 audiences now and every single time they want seconds.

Strawberry and Ricotta Pasta 

Serves 6

Sounds weird, tastes delicious. The strawberries provide much needed acidity balancing the rich pasta and ricotta cheese. The fried prosciutto delivers a crispy punch of sweet, salty pork.

Ingredients:

strawberries for pasta with strawberries ricotta and chives
Photography by Matt Hocking
  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1 lb fresh egg tagliatelle or linguine
  • 1 pint strawberries, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 1 tbs olive oil

Directions:

  • Warm a 12” skillet over medium heat. Add prosciutto and cook, turning once, until crisp. Crumble and reserve.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a roiling boil. Salt generously and add fresh pasta. Cook for two minutes and drain, reserving 1/4 cup of cooking water*.
  • Toss pasta with strawberries, ricotta, chives, olive oil, and reserved prosciutto. Season with black pepper and a pinch of salt.

*If pasta gets gummy or you have trouble separating strands, toss with a little bit of the reserved cooking water.


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