pasta, cropped

So as not to infringe on the Food Network. You’re safe, Five Ingredient Fix. I will not encroach.


This is really less about cooking that it is about formulae; I do love a good formula, like “e = mc(2)” or “stop = collaborate + listen.”* We all know that pasta is the penultimate ace in the hole for cheap-ass cooking (the ultimate: beans), so it’s useful to know how to change it up a bit.

This particular meal – pasta with garlicky, lemony spinach and ricotta – hews to two culinary formulae:

  1. Shit Ton of Garlic = Flavor Sensation, but more importantly
  2. Greens + Creamy Thing + Aromatic Thing = Wonderful Pasta

*Because Ice is back with a brand new invention. Had you heard?

garlic n' zest

I used garlic, lemon and spinach because I already had them in the house and they were cheap; the ricotta provided the creamy, coating every little ridge of the fusilli I chose. Cooking the garlic and lemon zest in olive oil slowly, slowly over low heat infused the oil beautifully and gave the spinach a real depth of flavor.

Also deep? Vanilla Ice. When something grabs a hold of him tightly and he starts flowing like a harpoon daily and nightly, it’s really something to behold. Truly, he is a master of verse.


I tossed the spinach in the fragrant oil until it was just wilted, and then put it aside while my pasta finished cooking.

I am totally paying the price for inflicting Vanilla Ice on you, because this song is NEVER EVER EVER going to leave my head. I might have to force it out with some Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.


Ricotta is like a twofer; it creamifies your pasta*, AND you can eat it for dessert. Seriously, just stir in a little sweetener and some flavor extract or cocoa powder, let it chill and go to town. Yes, I learned that from a South Beach Diet cookbook, and I am not ashamed. Sweetened almond ricotta is just plain good.

You can also just eat it with a spoon, which is also plain good, but you’ll spoil your dinner. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

*That sounds a little gross, and I’m sorry.


When the pasta’s done, you toss everything together while it’s still hot and voila: a perfect light dinner for a warm spring night. A load of cracked black pepper gives things an extra boost, as does some salty parm if you have it, but neither is really necessary. Finish things off with a little more lemon zest for an extra zingy burst, and say hello to your new favorite pasta. If you’re feeling a little fancy, you could throw a poached egg on top and mix the creamy yolk with the creamy ricotta and OH MY GOD WHY DID I NOT DO THAT?

Anyway, you can make this pasta any number of ways depending on what you have around and what’s in season. This permutation is my favorite, but you could swap out the spinach for chard or kale, the ricotta for a creamy goat cheese or a nice melty fontina, and the garlic and lemon for your aromatic or herb of choice. Just go to town. You can do this in your sleep, and it’s so quick that you’ll still have time to get in a TiVoed episode of American Idol before bed.