Recipe: Pasta cooking water is a key ingredient in ricotta sauce for this baked linguine with shrimp

Serves 4

The most important thing to remember about this simple dinner is to save pasta cooking water. I’ll say it again – save pasta water – because if you are anything like me, the likelihood that you will forget is high. The pasta is boiling, the rest of the recipe ingredients are getting prepped, and things are moving quickly. My chef / husband and I often cook together and he reminds me every time, four different ways. It’s a good thing; the cooking water is starchy and becomes a key component in this creamy ricotta-based sauce, which binds cooked linguine, partially cooked shrimp, and sauteed spinach in a baked dish. At first, when the pasta water goes into the ricotta, the cheese resembles a thick pureed soup. Then you add the rest of the ingredients, and if the mixture seems dry, you just stir in a bit more cooking water. Top the dish with panko and send it into the oven. Serve squares of baked linguine with salad greens for a quick, delicious dinner.

Vegetable oil (for the dish)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound small shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper
8 ounces baby spinach
Salt and black pepper, to taste
12 ounces linguine
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound fresh ricotta
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon capers, coarsely chopped
cup chopped fresh parsley
cup panko or other plain white breadcrumbs

1. Set the oven at 425 degrees. Oil an 8-inch square baking dish.

2. In a large skillet over high heat, heat the vegetable oil. Add the shrimp, and cook, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes, or just until they start to turn pink. They will not be fully cooked. With a slotted spoon, transfer them to a plate.

3. Lower the heat to medium-high. Add the butter to the skillet. When it melts, add the garlic and anchovy. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the red pepper and spinach. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until it wilts.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the linguine and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until it is just tender. Dip a heatproof measuring cup into the pot and remove 2 cups pasta water. Drain the pasta into a colander. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and toss gently into the colander.

5. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta with the lemon rind, juice, and capers. Stir in 1/4 cup pasta water, then add more water, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the ricotta forms a thick sauce. You will probably need about 1/2 cup. Stir in all but 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley.

6. Add the linguine, shrimp, and spinach to the ricotta mixture. Toss gently. If the mixture seems dry, add a bit more pasta water. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish, distributing the shrimp and spinach evenly.

7. In another bowl, combine the panko or breadcrumbs with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. With a fork, toss until the breadcrumbs are coated with oil. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on the linguine mixture.

8. Bake the dish for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the pan is golden and the dish is bubbling at the edges. Let the dish sit in a warm place for 5 minutes to settle. Cut into squares.

Karoline Boehm Goodnick

Serves 4

The most important thing to remember about this simple dinner is to save pasta cooking water. I’ll say it again – save pasta water – because if you are anything like me, the likelihood that you will forget is high. The pasta is boiling, the rest of the recipe ingredients are getting prepped, and things are moving quickly. My chef / husband and I often cook together and he reminds me every time, four different ways. It’s a good thing; the cooking water is starchy and becomes a key component in this creamy ricotta-based sauce, which binds cooked linguine, partially cooked shrimp, and sauteed spinach in a baked dish. At first, when the pasta water goes into the ricotta, the cheese resembles a thick pureed soup. Then you add the rest of the ingredients, and if the mixture seems dry, you just stir in a bit more cooking water. Top the dish with panko and send it into the oven. Serve squares of baked linguine with salad greens for a quick, delicious dinner.

Vegetable oil (for the dish)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound small shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper
8 ounces baby spinach
Salt and black pepper, to taste
12 ounces linguine
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound fresh ricotta
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon capers, coarsely chopped
cup chopped fresh parsley
cup panko or other plain white breadcrumbs

1. Set the oven at 425 degrees. Oil an 8-inch square baking dish.

2. In a large skillet over high heat, heat the vegetable oil. Add the shrimp, and cook, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes, or just until they start to turn pink. They will not be fully cooked. With a slotted spoon, transfer them to a plate.

3. Lower the heat to medium-high. Add the butter to the skillet. When it melts, add the garlic and anchovy. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the red pepper and spinach. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until it wilts.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the linguine and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until it is just tender. Dip a heatproof measuring cup into the pot and remove 2 cups pasta water. Drain the pasta into a colander. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and toss gently into the colander.

5. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta with the lemon rind, juice, and capers. Stir in 1/4 cup pasta water, then add more water, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the ricotta forms a thick sauce. You will probably need about 1/2 cup. Stir in all but 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley.

6. Add the linguine, shrimp, and spinach to the ricotta mixture. Toss gently. If the mixture seems dry, add a bit more pasta water. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish, distributing the shrimp and spinach evenly.

7. In another bowl, combine the panko or breadcrumbs with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. With a fork, toss until the breadcrumbs are coated with oil. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on the linguine mixture.

8. Bake the dish for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the pan is golden and the dish is bubbling at the edges. Let the dish sit in a warm place for 5 minutes to settle. Cut into squares.Karoline Boehm Goodnick

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