Pasta and cheese are old friends, but the kind of cheese you use makes a big nutritional difference. When tossed with hot pasta along with a little cooking water, low-fat ricotta quickly creates a healthy but rich-tasting sauce. Its mild, fresh-milk flavor is a good foil for stronger accents like peppery broccoli rabe and olives, or chard with lemon and pistachios.
Five fresh ways with ricotta
•Spread on toasted baguette slices and top with chopped tomatoes and chopped fresh herbs for quick crostini.
•Make calzones with purchased pizza dough; fill with ricotta and cooked spinach and mushrooms or your favorite pizza toppings.
•Blend with smoked salmon or trout and chopped herbs to make a spread for crackers.
•Fold into beaten eggs with cooked vegetables for a frittata.
•Mix with chopped chocolate, honey, vanilla, and grated orange peel; spoon over fresh fruit.
•Broccoli rabe and ricotta cheese make a creamy, healthy sauce for rice-shaped pasta.