|Acini de Pepe with Herbed Goat Cheese|
After making a few complicated appetizers I was prepared to make tortelloni from homemade pasta and fill them with an herbed goat cheese mixture. The pasta dough was ready but I kind of ran out of time. Actually, I lost the teenaged helpers I had been counting on. No worries. This wasn't some fancy dinner party, it was a casual get together. Remember my holiday cooking tips? "#10 - Don't sweat anything".
So we cooked some good dried pasta, tossed it in olive oil, salt and pepper along with a very small amount of the herbed cheese filling that had been intended for the tortelloni. Then dollops of the herb mixture were dotted onto the top of the warm pasta. Some of the mixture melted, some stayed together in....dollops, I guess. I did top it with some strips of oven dried orange peel. Over the top of all this I squeezed the juice of half an orange.
I used a small ball-shaped pasta called Acini de Pepe, which I understand to be Italian for "peppercorns", which is the exact size and shape of the pasta. This is a really good pasta to use for a crowd, because even just a pound of it will a lot of people as a side dish. Why, you ask?
Have you ever wondered why angel hair pasta seems to be more filling than say, fettucine or spaghetti? Maybe not. But most people think so. The reason is that there's more surface area in one pound of very thin pasta than there is in a pound of larger pasta. Thus, more water is absorbed, the pasta gets a little denser, and you get a little fuller. The peppercorn pasta has this same characteristic. We served seven adults and had leftovers, even though most people went back for seconds.
Acini de Pepe with Herbed Goat Cheese and Orange
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
4 ounces plain goat cheese
3 tablespoons milk or cream
1/4 cup good quality parmesan
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary
4 fresh sage leaves
--- If using dried herbs, use half the amounts and just a pinch of sage
1/2 of one orange
1 pound Acini de Pepe (small ball shaped) pasta
- Mix ricotta, goat cheese and milk or cream until texture is smooth. Add parmesan.
- Finely chop all herbs and add to cheese mixture along with salt and fresh ground pepper. Cover and allow to chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Cook pasta according to package directions, usually about 10 minutes. Drain and toss immediately with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and two tablespoons of the cheese mixture.
- Put pasta into a serving bowl, and while pasta is still warm drop teaspoons sized dollops of herb cheese mixture across the surface.
- Squeeze the juice of half an orange over the pasta and cheese.
- Optional: Cut long strips of orange rind with the "digging" edge of a citrus zester. Place on foil and cook for 30 minutes in a 200 degree oven. Break dried orange rind over pasta.