The minute I step outside I can feel sweat beginning to bead up on my forehead, chest and lower back. Give it a few minutes more and I’ll feel it start to drip. A couple minutes more and it feels like Niagara Falls. It’s July in Charleston, SC and the dog days of summer are here.
I’ve come to realize that fully embracing the heat and humidity is the only way to enjoy summer here. Embrace the sweat and know that everyone is just as sweaty as you are. Embrace the sunshine and all the green the flourishes because of it. Embrace the fact that many days, you have to take two showers, and that the volume of your laundry basket doubles on a weekly basis.
But when the heat and humidity finally become unbearable, there is always the beach, a cold shower, or AC somewhere when you need it. (oh, and a razor cold beer). There’s nothing like riding out the heat for hours at a time and cooling off in the ocean. Or stepping inside to a crisp, cold room full of AC. Your appreciation for these simple things is heightened and makes summer not just bearable, but enjoyable.
You know what else summer has to offer? Amazing food. Watermelon, berries and tomatoes. Fresh herbs, salads of all kinds and cookouts.
This pasta salad was inspired by summer. Creamy ricotta is blended with freshly squeezed lemon juice and chopped homegrown basil to give it that light and refreshing flavor we crave during the hot summer months.
Make a large batch so you have something healthy to nosh on throughout the week; take some to work in your lunch, snack on it for that late afternoon snack, or pair it with some grilled chicken or fish for dinner. The beauty of a pasta salad is that you can customize it however you like. I used broccoli, peas and spinach, but consider asparagus, eggplant or cucumber. Instead of ricotta, you could use cottage cheese or marscapone. You don’t have to stick to the recipe, you can do whatever you want. Just do you. This is a critical mindset to have when trying to make eating well a lifestyle change. When your mind is constantly focused on all these “food rules” the enjoyable aspect of cooking and eating is greatly diminished, making eating well more of an obstacle than a beneficial lifestyle change.
Use Recipes as a Stepping Stone to Eat Well Forever
Recipes teach us how to cook and help us understand how specific foods fit together. Once you get that down, you learn how to tailor recipes and meal ideas to your preferences (or what you have in your refrigerator at the moment!), and rely less on following the recipe to a “T”. This is how healthy eating habits are created and sustained.
So if you’ve just begun your path to eating well, I recommend following the recipe while being mindful about the composition of this pasta salad: it is roughly equal parts pasta to vegetables. So simple, but so important. This way, you’re not just filling up on starch from the pasta, you’re also nourishing your body with vitamin and mineral packed vegetables. Vitamins and minerals aid in numerous metabolic reactions in the body to promote a healthy metabolism and prevent disease.
If you’re more comfortable in the kitchen and want to use other veggies, I’d love to hear your variation on this pasta salad in a comment below. Your variation will inspire others so please share!!
Creamy Ricotta Pasta Salad
What You Need
1# whole wheat fusili
1 small head broccoli, chopped into bite sized pieces
1/2 bag of spinach
1 cup green peas (I used frozen)
3 scallion stalks, whites and greens, chopped
1.5 cups whole milk ricotta
2 TBS olive oil
1/4 cup water
2 lemons, juiced and zest from 1 lemon
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
What to Do
1) Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta until al dente. With a few minutes remaining, toss in broccoli, peas, spinach and scallion and cook for 2-3 minutes.
2) Immediately drain pasta and veggies in colander and rinse with cold water. This prevents green veggies from cooking any longer and turning dark green (spinach will be dark green). We want to keep that bright vibrant green color!
3) To make the sauce: Add all sauce ingredients into large bowl and whisk away (you could also use a blender). Add water bit by bit until ricotta mixture becomes somewhat fluid; just enough to pour easily and provide a thick coating on the pasta.
4) Add sauce to pasta and toss until well coated. Refrigerate and add water as needed if it drys out.
Stay cool 🙂