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Cheese lovers will flip for ricotta sauce

| Wednesday, May 15, 2002

If you are a fan of cheese and cheese sauces — in particular, with pasta — but are put off by the calories and fat, take a closer look at ricotta cheese.

This rich, smooth and mild cheese has about half the calories and fat of more traditional cheeses, and it makes a great partner with pasta. It also marries well with a variety of herbs and spices.

The ricotta and broccoli sauce recipe that follows is quick and easy, just the way dinner should be. Not a fan of broccoli• Substitute sauteed zucchini, asparagus, green beans or any other favorite veggie.

The quick strawberry shortcake for dessert is a classic, simple and fun dessert made all the more enjoyable by the addition of instant vanilla pudding.

Get the kids to help — it's fun for them and makes your job even easier. Enjoy.


Penne Pasta with Broccoli and
a Ricotta Cheese Sauce

  • 2 to 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/2 pound dried penne pasta
  • About 1/4 cup (3 to 4 tablespoons) pasta cooking water
  • 3 cups part-skim ricotta cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup Asiago cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Other favorite seasonings, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Drop the broccoli into the water for 1 to 2 minutes; using a slotted spoon, remove the florets from the water. Run them under cold water to stop the cooking and set them aside.

Cook the pasta in the same boiling water according to package directions or until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the cooking water. (You might need this to help the cheeses melt.)

Place the pasta in a large bowl. Add the cheeses, sugar, salt and pepper and other seasonings as desired. Stir well.

The cheese should melt from the heat of the pasta. Add some of the cooking water to aid in melting, if necessary. Add the broccoli and parsley, adjust the seasonings to taste and serve.

Makes 4 servings.


Quick Strawberry Shortcakes

Look for shortcake cups in the produce or bakery section of the supermarket.

  • 1 (4-serving-size) package instant vanilla pudding (optional)
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed
  • 1 package yellow chiffon shortcake cups
  • 2 cups whipped topping (optional)

If using the pudding, make it ahead of time so that it is ready for dessert.

Combine the fresh and thawed berries in a bowl and toss well. Spoon enough pudding into the bottom of each shortcake to cover the bottom of the cake. Spoon the berries and a little of the sweet juice over the top, then top with the whipped topping, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

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