I just recently discovered the joy of using mascarpone cheese for dishes other than desserts and now I wonder just what took me so long. Mascarpone is is a very soft, creamy cheese with just a hint of sweetness, and although it is wonderful in many of my favorite dessert recipes, it also lends itself wonderfully to pasta and main entree dishes. I had a small tub of mascarpone in my refrigerator that I needed to use up and decided to incorporate it into an easy pasta dish I had in mind for dinner. I simply mixed the creamy mascarpone with some lemon zest, lemon juice and lots of cracked black pepper for the sauce. I sauteed some cubes of chicken thighs, added some chopped sun-dried tomatoes and baby spinach and in under 30 minutes I had a delicious main course pasta dish. Since the mascarpone is so thick and creamy, you can thin it a bit using some of the pasta water when mixing it into the hot, cooked pasta.
I used a package of artisan pasta shells in my version, but almost any pasta shape would work as the mascarpone clings nicely to the pasta. To top my pasta dish, I fried up some coarse breadcrumbs in olive oil with a bit of garlic, but grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino cheese would also work. In place of the chicken, sauteed shrimp would also work nicely with the lemon flavored mascarpone sauce.
Deborah Mele 2011
- 1 Cup Mascarpone Cheese At Room Temperature
- Zest & Juice of 1 Lemon
- 1 Teaspoon Cracked Black Pepper
- 3 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs, Cleaned Of Fat And Cut Into 1 Inch Dice
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Minced
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/3 Cup Chopped Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- 1 (9 Ounce) Bag Baby Spinach
- 1 (500 Gram) Package Pasta
- Sauteed Garlic Breadcrumbs or
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano/ Pecorino Cheese
- Combine the zest, lemon juice, mascarpone, and pepper in a bowl, and whisk to combine.
- Bring a pasta pot of salted water to boil.
- While waiting on the water, heat the oil in a skillet, and cook the chicken until it is cooked through and just beginning to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes .
- Add the garlic and cook another minute or two, then season with salt and pepper.
- Cook the pasta until al dente, taking it off the heat about 1 to 2 minutes before you would normally remove it.
- Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
- Return the pasta to the pot, and set over medium heat.
- Stir in the mascarpone and lemon mixture, the chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach.
- Loosen the sauce with about 1/4 cup of the water and toss all over the ingredients together until the spinach has wilted and everything is piping hot, adding a little additional pasta water if needed.
- Serve immediately, topped with grated cheese or sauteed breadcrumbs.