Nigel Slater's midweek dinner: orecchiette, ricotta and broad beans

A very quick supper of delicate summer flavours. Enough for 4 as a light meal.

The recipe

Drop 400g of broad beans into boiling, lightly salted water and cook for 7-8 minutes, depending on their size, then drain them in a colander. Cook 250g of orecchiette or other medium-sized pasta in deep, generously salted boiling water until al dente, about 9 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, squeeze the broad beans out of their grey skins. Discard the skins and toss the broad beans in a splash of olive oil.

Drain the pasta, tip into a large bowl, then add the broad beans. Stir a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into 200g of ricotta – there may be a little curdling – and season with black pepper. Drop large spoonfuls of the ricotta on top of the pasta and serve.

The trick

Choose immature broad beans with thin skins. If you use older beans, remove the outer grey skins. The easiest way to do this is to boil the broad beans until tender, then remove the external skin by squeezing the bean between your thumb and finger. The inner, bright-green flesh will just pop out.

The twist

Chopped fresh tarragon, mint or chervil are the most appropriate herbs to add to this pasta dish. A scattering of grated parmesan, tiny nuggets of pecorino or shavings of aged ricotta will add a savoury hit. Shelled peas, mangetout or snow peas will bring more sweetness, just as sliced button mushrooms cooked in a little butter will introduce an earthy quality. The recipe is a gentle one, so it is not worth adding anything too robust or powerful.

Email Nigel at nigel.slater@observer.co.uk or visit guardian.co.uk/profile/nigelslater for all his recipes in one place

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012

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