Several years ago, we lucked upon a last-minute reservation to Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa Valley. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Dylan was quite beside himself with excitement at the prospect of finally experiencing the legendary tasting menu and at the end of the night, after 10 tiny and exquisite courses, Dylan declared it awesome and said he could eat another 10 right then and there. As for me, while I found the whole experience quite fascinating, it just wasn’t my style. I was at a disadvantage right off the bat, ordering the vegetarian sampling menu after noticing that about half of the dishes on the regular sampling menu had meats that I don’t eat. And really, is there anything you can serve a vegetarian that makes a meal worth several hundred dollars? I think not. But putting that aside for a moment, it just wasn’t the way I prefer to eat. I’m not one for fancy sauces, complicated techniques, and hoopla. No, I much prefer one big bowl of something hearty and satisfying that I really love over a dozen interesting mini-courses.
Lest this build-up make you think that I’m suggesting this linguine with green beans, ricotta, and lemon outshines a meal at French Laundry, I’m afraid that’s not quite the case. My point is that sometimes something incredibly simple and seemingly ordinary turns out to be quite a hidden gem. I wasn’t expecting too much when I whipped this quick dinner together a couple of weeks ago, but it turns out this recipe from Giada’s Kitchen (found here on Serious Eats) is surprisingly good, rising above your average pasta dish. I’ll never turn down a plate of pasta and cheese, but in this case, it’s the lemon that really shines. Bright and sunny, it draws out the fresh flavors of the veggies. Even if you’re a member of the tiny, persnickety plates school of eating, I have a feeling you’ll like this one…
Linguine with green beans, ricotta, and lemon (serves 4)
1 pound linguine
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound French green beans (haricot verts), trimmed and halved lengthwise
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
Zest of 1 lemon
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Transfer the hot pasta to a large heat-proof bowl and add the ricotta. Toss to combine.
2. Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the green beans, garlic, salt, and pepper and sauté for 4 minutes. Add the reserved pasta cooking liquid and continue cooking until the beans are tender, about 4 more minutes. Add the ricotta-coated pasta to the pan with the green beans and toss to combine. Add the tomatoes and toss gently. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with the lemon zest. Serve.