Sunday, March 1, 2009

R2R: Ricotta Cheese- Adventures in Cheeseland

I was thrilled and scared (as usual) at the sight of this months Recipes to Rival challenge- Ricotta cheese. I've never made cheese, and as much as I love to eat all varieties, I am unforgivably lactose intolerant. This challenge was a both intriguing and astonishing science experiment.

Here's the recipe
Fresh Ricotta
(from Lauren at I'll Eat You, the culinary genius that hosted this month)
1 gallon milk, you can use 1 percent on up, remember that the more fat in the milk, the more cheese it will yield
1 quart buttermilk
-cheesecloth,a good, tightly woven one, not the kind you buy at the supermarket - If you don't have one of these, you can get by with a slotted spoon, but you may lose some of the cheese. ( I used supermarket cheesecloth & just doubled it. That worked just fine.)
-a thermometer
- A colander

You start with milk and buttermilk in a pot with a thermometer and heat it up. Simple enough. Then, before your eyes it seems to look a little chunkier....and a little chunkier...and then you get the guts to stir it and its a wonderfully thick globular mess. A little more cooking and the curds ready to scoop onto the waiting cheesecloth. All the while chanting: Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey...Then I tied the cheesecloth with the curds, rigged it to a coat hanger (I had it on the cabinet pull at first- not a good idea), and let it drain.At this point I probably made a slight mistake. The recipe says to let it hang for 10-15 minutes, and I didn't have that. So I squoze. Retrospectively, do not squeeze! I think I squoze too much liquid out and made it a little drier than it should be, but here's my finished dry ball o cheese. I still need to figure out what to make with it....Not sure how the dry (hard even) status will work in cheesecake, or the pasta I had planned on making... but we shall see. Regardless, I can't wait to do this culinary science project again!
Addendum: I made a really easy but tastes fantastic pasta dish. Here's the rough layout, I never measure ingredients so I dont know how much of each for sure. The extra firm ricotta worked out fine! I had to cut it with a knife, and then it crumbled kind of like feta, but it worked out fine. It tasted fine, and my pasta tasted great!
Ricotta Sausage and Penne
2 packages Italian Sausages, I like the spicy ones
Brocolli- 1-2 heads chopped into bite sized florets, and blanched briefly
1 box penne cooked, reserve 2 c pasta water
Ricotta- one of the med sized tubs
Tomato paste- small can
Onion and Garlic chopped
Hot Pepper- fresh chopped or dried
Bay Leaf, Thyme, Oregano and other herbs and spices as desired
Salt and Pepper
Cook sausage in large pan, sear first in small amount oil, then add water and braise until almost cooked through. Remove from pan and slice into bit sized rounds. Add onion, garlic peppers, and spices to pan and cook until sausage is cooked all the way and onion becomes transparent. Add brocolli to pan. Add half of ricotta to pan with tomato paste, stir until combined. Add enough pasta water until sauce becomes easier to stir. Add penne to pan, stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more ricotta to that so that some chunks remain in addition to the creamy sauce. Serve!

It's really easy, only takes maybe 20 minutes to prepare, with the longest time being the sausage cooking part! It's my brother's favorite pasta dish. What's not to like- sausage, pasta, spice and cheese. You don't get much better than that! I didn't use all the ricotta, so maybe I'll make something else with the ricotta tomorrow during my snow day!
Check out the snow!! woohoo!


Sara said...

The cheese looks excellent. I love the wire hanger rig.

kat said...

Looks like you did a great job with the cheese & that's totally the kind of pasta we like too

Debyi said...

Your ricotta looks great. The wire hanger idea is a good one, I'll have to try that next time. Your pasta sounds fantastic, I'll have to try that one too.

Lori said...

Great job. That pasta looks so yummie!

Temperance said...

The wire hanger rig is inspired. Don't worry, I ended up with a hard little ball too, it was still good, but I will be making a second go of it. Maybe we can try it again together?

Elra said...

First I'd like to comment about the snow, there is something magical about it. I wish we have it here, actually we do have snow, but way way up in the mountain, and it takes 4 - 5 hours to drive there. My son actually drive every other week for snow boarding. He loves it! And oh, that patio look so inviting, though it's snowy, it is still look very welcoming.

Anyway, I am so impress that you tackled this challenge. I never even tried to attempt to make my own cheese. Maybe I should...
Looks great Jess, well done.

Y said...

Wow homemade ricotta! How cool! Did you end up using the whey for anything?