It first occurred to me to make fresh ricotta when I was approached to teach a class at Williams-Sonoma. I was going to demonstrate how to make fresh mozzarella (which I learned at Restaurant Nora ). To give the class a theme, we decided on “Homemade Cheeses.” I had never made ricotta before, but I was a quick learner.
Since then, I’ve revised my theme to “The Ultimate Homemade Lasagne.” With the exception of the parmesan, I can make everything from scratch: pasta, Bolognese, ricotta and mozzarella. I can even use the tomatoes and basil from my garden! It’s truly rewarding to do it! The satisfaction of making a meal entirely from scratch, but also how deliciously amazing lasagna can be… the ultimate homemade is really a different beast.Ricotta is the simplest recipe of the whole process. And it doesn’t require any special ingredients: just milk, cream, salt and lemon.
Combine ½ gallon of whole milk with 1 pint of cream and 1 tablespoon of salt in a large pot, stainless steel pot. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat.
While the milk is heating, squeeze enough lemon juice to yield ½ cup. Line a colander with cheese cloth or coffee filters.
When milk starts to simmer, stir in lemon juice. Stir just enough to combine. The more you stir, the smaller the curds (which is a bad thing). Let sit for 20 minutes to let the curds separate from the whey. They whey will be a translucent, white liquid.
Scoop out the curds into the colander and let drain for about 1 hour, or until the curds are dry. Keeps for about three days. Yield: 3 cups.
- Mix with basil and serve with crackers as an hors d’œuvres
- Use as a filling for raviolis or cannelloni’s
- Use as a filling for cannolis
- Make a sweet ricotta tart
CROSTATA di RICOTTA
1 cup sifted all purpose flour, plus extra for “dusting”
6 tbs. butter, room temp
2 egg yolks
4 tbs. sugar
4 tsp. Marsala
1/2 tsp. freshly grated lemon peel
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. freshly grated orange peel
2 egg yolks
3 tbs. raisins, rinsed and drained
2 tbs. slivered, blanched almonds or pine nuts
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Make the crust: In a large mixing bowl make a well in the flour. Drop in the butter, egg yolks, sugar, Marsala, lemon peel and salt. Mix the ingredients together, but don't overwork the dough. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is about 1” around wider than the pan, and about 1/8" thick.
4. Lightly butter the sides and bottom of a 9 1/2" false bottom pan. Carefully, press the pastry into the bottom of the pan and around the sides. Be careful not to stretch it. Trim excess.
5. Combine cheese with sugar, flour, salt, vanilla, grated orange peel and egg yolks; beat until they are thoroughly mixed. Stir in the raisins. Spoon the filling into the pastry shell and smooth with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the top with slivered almonds or pine nuts. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 1/2 hour, or until the crust is golden and the filling firm. Remove from oven and let the pie cool before serving. Garnish with fresh strawberries, if you like.