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Penne with Turnips, Leeks and Ricotta Cheese

Turnips are one of my favorite winter vegetables. Although they are available year-round, their flavor deepens from a delicate sweetness after the first harvest, to the more typical pungency that people tend to associate with this vegetable.

Turnips hold up well to a variety of cooking methods, from roasting to purées. Here, it’s featured in a pasta dish, with sautéed leeks and dollops of cow’s milk ricotta cheese.

Penne with turnips, leeks and ricotta cheese
Penne with turnips, leeks and ricotta cheese

2 medium turnips, peeled and sliced in 1/2″ batons
1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced
olive oil
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 leek, trimmed, cleaned and sliced thinly (pale green and white parts only)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
dried penne pasta
3 tablespoons ricotta cheese
chopped parsley
extra-virgin olive oil (for garnish)

Fill a large bowl with ice water.

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add turnips and cook until turnips are tender-crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Drain, then plunge into ice water. Drain again, and set aside.

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Note that this recipe is sized for two servings, so adjust the quantity of pasta accordingly. Cook pasta until al dente, then drain, reserving some of the cooking water.

Gently warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook until garlic becomes a pale gold, about 1 minute. Add turnip to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until turnips begin to turn a light gold, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Melt unsalted butter in the same skillet, over medium heat. Add leeks; sauté until leeks become translucent, about 3 minutes. Return turnip mixture to the pan. Taste for salt and pepper. If the pan seems too dry, add 2 to 3 tablespoons reserved pasta cooking water. Cook until turnips are warmed through. Add pasta to the skillet; toss. Taste for salt and pepper once again, then spoon into warmed serving bowls. Sprinkle with parsley and dollops of ricotta cheese. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil, then serve at once.

Time: About 30 minutes, including prep.

This is my submission for Presto Pasta Nights #246, a weekly foodblog event hosted by Helen of Fuss Free Flavors and organized by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast.

7 replies »

  1. Definitely drool worthy! Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights. It seems I’m always attracted to super green pasta sauces in the middle of dreary days of winter.


  2. This looks great – and I’m actually looking for ways of using up leeks at the moment! I’d never have thought to use turnips in pasta but I like the idea.


    • hi Corina. turnips can also appear in risotto, but for that kind of dish I have to wait until spring or fall when they’re smaller, sweeter and more tender than their more mature counterparts.

      almost any vegetable can appear in pasta. it just requires a little forethought and creativity sometimes.


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