Summer Ragu with Zucchini, Ricotta and Mint

SERVES: 45

What makes this a summer ragu you ask? It’s a ragu that’s comprised of 75 percent vegetables making it much lighter than your average meat sauce. You’ll develop most of the flavor of this recipe by searing the zucchini over high heat and establishing some good caramelization. Ground pork (or chicken!!) get stirred in gently towards the end to give some body and depth of flavor without overpowering. I’ve called for ¾ pound of pasta here, not to be a nuisance, but because it tips the ratio of ragu to pasta in favor of the ragu which makes for a lighter dish over all.

Active Time: 45 Mins

Total Time: 45 mins

summer-ragu

Produce

  • 1 ½ pounds zucchini or yellow squash
  • 1 pound leeks
  • 1 large shallot
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups mint leaves
  • 2 lemons

Pantry

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¾ pound spaghetti or other long pasta

Dairy

  • 3 ounces grated parmesan cheese (about ¾ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ⅔ cup whole milk ricotta

Meat

  • ½ pound ground pork or chicken

1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.

2. Prep the veg:

  • Cut 1½ pounds zucchini into 1” cubes.

     

  • Trim the hairy ends and dark green parts of 1 pound leeks. Cut the leeks in quarter lengthwise and then thinly slice crosswise.

     

  • Thinly slice 1 large shallot into rings.

     

  • Lightly smash and peel 8 garlic cloves.

     

  • Coarsely chop 2 packed cups worth of mint leaves.

     

  • Finely grate the zest of ½ lemon into ⅔ cup ricotta and stir to combine.

3. Start the ragu:

  • Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 3 tablespoon olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Once you begin to see signs of smoke, add the diced zucchini to the pot. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and cook undisturbed until well browned underneath, about 3 minutes. Stir and cook until well browned on at least 2 sides, 3-4 minutes longer.

     

  • Add the leeks, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often until softened, 3-4 minutes. Scoot the zucchini and leeks over to one side of the pot to make space for the pork.

     

  • Add ½ pound ground pork, the sliced shallots and garlic, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and season with 1 teaspoon salt (this is the first time you’re seasoning the pork and remaining vegetables so we want to be sure to season well). Cook over medium, stirring gently to break the pork up until the pork is no longer pink, and the shallots and garlic have just barely softened, but nothing has browned, 2 minutes. Note: we are not browning the meat, we are very gently cooking it until just barely cooked through and no further. It will continue to cook once the hot pasta is added so err on the side of undercooking.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and cover until the pasta is cooked.

4. Cook the pasta:

  • Add ¾ pound of spaghetti into the boiling water and stir well to separate.

     

  • Before draining, scoop out and reserve 2 cups of pasta water.

5. Finish:

  • Add the spaghetti to the ragu and return the pot to medium heat along with 1 cup of pasta water and 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the chopped mint.

     

  • Working a handful at a time (so as to avoid clumping), and stirring constantly, add 3 ounces (⅔ cup) grated parmesan cheese. Continue adding cheese, and more pasta water as needed until the butter is melted and the spaghetti is saucy and glossy but not so thick that the spoon leaves no traces of sauce in its wake.

     

  • Stir in the juice of 2 lemons. Taste and add more salt to the pasta if needed. Just before serving, dollop the lemony ricotta sporadically into the pot, give the spaghetti one toss to lightly incorporate (but not totally disperse).
  • Serve!

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