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Penne with Ricotta and Tomato Sauce

Try fresh sheep's-milk ricotta if it's available—it has a delicate flavor and light texture. For a richer topping, whisk 1 tablespoon of mascarpone into the ricotta in Step 1.

slideshow Fast Weekday Pastas

  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 4

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  • 1 cup fresh whole-milk ricotta (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3/4 pound penne


  1. In a small bowl, whisk the ricotta with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Cover and set aside at room temperature for up to 4 hours.
  2. In a large nonreactive saucepan, simmer the tomatoes over moderate heat until very soft, about 10 minutes. Pass them through the medium disk of a food mill or use a rubber spatula to push the tomatoes through a coarse strainer.
  3. Wipe out the saucepan and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in it. Add the onion and garlic and cook over low heat until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and 1 tablespoon of the basil and simmer over moderately low heat until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Fill a large pot with water, cover and bring to a boil. Add salt and the penne. Cover partially until the water just returns to a boil, then uncover, stir the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce; toss to coat the pasta well. Serve immediately in warmed bowls, topped with a dollop of the ricotta and a sprinkling of the remaining basil.

Make Ahead

The tomato sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat before adding the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serve With

A crusty country loaf.

Suggested Pairing

Made mostly from Sangiovese grapes, the Avignonesi Vino Nobile de Montepulciano is a hefty, juicy wine that will wrap itself around the ricotta and tomato sauce.

Contributed By Published July 1997

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