Is Ricotta and Radicchio Really a Rut? Even in Default Spaghetti?

I have got to snap out of it! It’s the eleventh day of the New Year and I have yet to really cook! I mean turn the oven on cook! I mean use my brain cook! I mean the kind of cooking that puts the neighbors to shame!

The cold poached Asian pears from yesterday are fabulous, I am not saying they are not. In fact we are enjoying them over vanilla ice cream tonight. But as delicious as they are, they are not really cooking. I am a tough judge and even tougher on myself than I am on other people.

So I gotta admit, tonight I am not really cooking– again! Yep, it’s default pasta night at Sups! house. And though it is one of my favorite nights of the week I am not really burning any barns here. No wheels are being re-invented.

Still, I promise you it’s going to be tasty. Afterall the popularity of default pasta night lies in the fact that it’s a sure fire shortcut to success.

garlic breadcrumbs and radicchioWe all have recipes like these in our back pocket. No grocery lists are needed. You arrive at the market and you weigh your options. Because on default pasta night there are just a few simple rules. Follow them well, because I am watching you…

Rule 1: Always include something slightly rich. It can be meat or cheese or even stunningly good olive oil.

Rule 2: Whenever you have something luscious (in this case ricotta) balance it with something bold or bitter (in this case radicchio). Alliterations help, but they are not mandatory.

Rule 3: It’s not default pasta without garlic. It may be pasta, but it’s not default pasta. Learn the fine distinctions.

Rule 4: If you are going vegetarian. Choose something pretty. Color is your friend. Embrace it. Dead animals enliven most any pasta, but vegetarian pastas require an artistic eye.

Rule 5: Please include something unexpected or slightly devious. In this case super-saturated, super-crunchy breadcrumbs. But I would accept anchovies as well, just don’t tell the dullards in your life that you put them in.

That’s it. The super top-secret rules to default pasta are now revealed. It may be just the thing I needed to get me cooking again. Because if the neighbors now hold the keys to perfect default pasta, then my game has just been upped. I am going to have to find a new way to put them to shame!

Besides, I gotta start cooking again. If I don’t get pork in me real soon, I may indeed die… How’d you like to see my limp lifeless form in your default pasta?

spaghetti with ricotta and radicchioSpaghetti with Ricotta & Radicchio serves 4 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 2 T very good olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 clv garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1⁄2 c italian parsley, leaves only, minced
  • 1 c homemade or panko style breadcrumbs, plain
  • 1⁄4 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb thin, dried spaghetti
  • 10 oz whole milk ricotta
  • 1 head radicchio, quartered, cored and cut into thin ribbons
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • parmesan cheese to taste

Heat about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet set over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant but not yet browned, about 2 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently. They should become golden in about 4 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the parsley. Continue to stir until the skillet has cooled somewhat. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add several tablespoons of salt. Add the pasta to the pot, stir a few times to avoid sticking and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of pasta water for the sauce.

Put the spaghetti and pasta water back into the pot, adding the ricotta and the remaining olive oil. Stir well to coat all the noodles. Add the ribbons of radicchio and about 25% of the breadcrumbs. Taste and season with more salt if necessary and plenty of black pepper. Toss to combine and turn the spaghetti out onto a serving platter, topping it with the remaining breadcrumbs and a big drizzle of olive oil. Serve warm, passing the Parmesan at the table.


Greg Henry