In general, I'm the kind of cook who appreciates simplicity.
I don't find architectural stacks of food on my plate interesting and I don't get excited about eating sugar orbs filled with sesame oil or cuttlefish ravioli filled with rabbit brain espuma.
Occasionally I'll wake up in the mood to spend the morning in the kitchen cooking coq au vin or boeuf bourguignon or a slow simmering bolognese sauce which needs several hours to mellow and meld it's flavors together. It is a perfect, lazy Sunday with Pink Martini playing in the background activity. And then I like to freeze it in several containers so I have it available to make a delicious, impromptu lunch or dinner.
Most days, however, it is nice to have some recipes on hand that don't take hours and hours. I love a good pasta sauce that can be made in the time it takes the water to boil and the noodles to cook. This frees up time to make a salad or yummy dessert when you want to invite friends or family over for dinner. And I've never met anyone who doesn't like pasta.
I recently discovered something amusing about our French friends, a couple for whom I've always made the most spectacular of dishes from my repertoire because they always do the same for us when we're at their house...they prefer Italian food to any other! And here I've been for the last four years, trying to serve them interesting, American dishes (no, that isn't a contradiction of terms) that they have never tried before and all this time they just wanted some good, Italian food!
Here's something simple I made the other night.
8 ounces frozen baby peas, thawed
1/3 pound slab bacon, cut into lardons
1/3 pound fresh ricotta
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
freshly ground black pepper
1 pound orecciette (medium sized shells will also work, but you want a shape that will hold the sauce and the peas)
Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta.
While it is cooking, heat the bacon over medium heat until lightly browned. Pour off most of the bacon fat, leaving a couple of tablespoons in the pan. Add the thawed peas and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring to coat with the bacon drippings.
Mix the ricotta and butter together in the bowl you'll serve the pasta in.
Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of cooking water and add it to the ricotta and butter and toss it all together quickly. Pour in the bacon and peas, mix again then add the parmesan and pepper and mix again. If it seems too dry, you can drizzle a little of the reserved pasta water to get the sauce to the consistency of your liking.
Serve with more grated parmesan at the table.