Orecchiette with Garlic Scapes, Ricotta, and Gremolata – Recipe

Orecchiette with Garlic Scapes, Ricotta, and Gremolata
Orecchiette with Garlic Scapes, Ricotta, and Gremolata

Unlike tender green garlic, garlic scapes are the firmer central flowering stem of the garlic plant. When fully cooked, they have a texture similar to asparagus, and a sweet flavor like slow-roasted garlic. In the past I’ve made the mistake of not trimming off enough of the hardest part and/or not cooking them fully, and then they can be unpleasantly woody, but when cooked until tender they are quite delicious. The most likely place to find garlic scapes is at a farmer’s market, though I have seen them at Asian groceries and Whole Foods as well.

The idea for this pasta is a riff on a terrific ravioli that Mike Easton served at Seattle’s Il Corvo, a lunchtime-only pasta restaurant that lives inside Procopio Gelateria behind Pike Place Market. His fresh pasta is outstanding, but I didn’t have time for that project today, so I made this variation using a good dried orecchiette. I’m inspired by his ability to create an atypical restaurant-within-a-restaurant, as I want to do something equally non-standard.

Gremolata refers to a mixture of minced lemon zest, parsley and raw garlic that most famously garnishes osso buco. I like it on many things, including these smashed potatoes. For today’s dish, I added a few tarragon leaves for some extra complexity.

The quality of ricotta varies widely; if you don’t know of an excellent local source, the national brand you want is Calabro.

Orecchiette with Garlic Scapes, Ricotta, and Gremolata
Vegetarian and kosher
Serves 4

For the gremolata:

  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 packed handful of washed and dried parsley leaves, minced
  • A few leaves of tarragon (optional), minced
  1. Pile these ingredients together on the chopping board, and give them an additional mincing and tossing together. Set aside in a bowl.
For the pasta:
  • 1 pound garlic scapes
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots or onion
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound dried orecchiette or other medium-sized shaped pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Put a large pot of well-salted water on to boil. Set your serving bowls aside to warm up.
  2. Trim the flower and 1/2″ off the other end from each scape. Cut the scapes into 1 1/2″ lengths.
  3. In your largest skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. When the shallots are translucent, add the scapes and saute until mostly tender. This could take 10 minutes or more. If they are really fighting you, add a little water and cover to allow them to steam.
  4. When the garlic scapes are nearly done, add the pasta to the water and cook according to package directions. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic scapes to a bowl. Add the wine to the saute pan and scrape (deglaze) the bottom of the pan to loosen up any delicious browned bits. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of the butter, a little bit at a time. Add the garlic scapes back to the pan.
  5. When the pasta is just short of al dente, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain. Add the pasta to the pan with the garlic scapes and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning; it may need more salt. If the pasta seems a little dry (tight), add a bit of the reserved pasta water until it has a nice, moist shine.
  6. Divide the pasta among the serving bowls. Top each bowl with several dollops of the ricotta, a few grinds of black pepper, and some of the gremolata. Serve immediately.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, June 25th, 2012 in Main Courses, Recipes, Seattle.

6 Responses to “Orecchiette with Garlic Scapes, Ricotta, and Gremolata – Recipe”

  1. June 25, 2012 at 6:15 am #

    That meal definitely tastes great, with all garlic-lemon-parsley-tarragon flavor! I wouldn’t even use ricotta, just the gremolata and garlic. Beautiful presentation on a lovely Italian (?) plate. Have you made orecchiette? I’d like to try to make it from scratch (well, no other options available for me here), but haven’t find a recipe yet. I watch a video how to form it, but no recipe of flour/water proportion. I heard it’s different from a regular pasta, is it? Have a great week, Michael!

  2. June 25, 2012 at 6:32 am #

    Hey Marina – nope, I haven’t made fresh orecchiette from scratch. Here’s a promising looking recipe from Smitten Kitchen: link to smittenkitchen.com though.

  3. July 1, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    Such a perfect, fresh combination! garlic scapes, ricotta, and gremolata, together at last. This dish was really enjoyable!

  4. July 10, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    I got all excited, thinking that orechiette sure looked like whole grain…..but you don’t mention it in your recipe. Are you holding out on us, Michael? I’d love to find some!

    • July 10, 2012 at 8:15 am #

      Nope, regular white flour orecchiette. I’ve frankly never found a whole-grain pasta that I think is good. Every few years someone will tell me they have found a brand that is “just like” the real thing, and I try it and the texture is all wrong.

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