Having achieved moderate success with mozzarella cheese and yogurt, it is time to try another adventure with milk. While I was looking through old magazines for recipes (starting to brainstorm about Thanksgiving and also a company pot luck), I found last November's Food and Wine. In it, I saw an article about Maria Helm Sinskey and her ricotta cheese and associated recipes. Unfortunately, I don't have a camera at the moment to take pictures to show you how cool it is to make ricotta (so you will have to just take my word for it). If you are really interested on the appearance, it does not look much different from mozzarella while you are making it.
Below is the recipe (from Food and Wine's Creamy Ricotta recipe), it makes 3.5 cups of ricotta and can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
What You Need:
- 2 quarts whole milk, preferably organic
- 1 cup heavy cream, preferably organic
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
What You Do:
1. In a medium pot (or bigger), warm the milk and cream over moderately high heat until the surface becomes foamy and steamy and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the milk registers 185°; don’t let the milk boil.
2. Remove the pot from the heat.
3. Add the vinegar and stir gently for 30 seconds. Maria says that "the mixture will curdle almost immediately." And it really does! This is so crazy to watch. Take a look at the mozzarella pictures if you are curious on how this looks.
4. Add the salt and stir for 30 seconds longer.
5. Cover the pot with a clean towel and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.
6. Line a large colander with several layers of cheesecloth, allowing several inches of overhang.
7. Set the colander in a large bowl.
8. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the curds to the colander.
8. Carefully gather the corners of the cheesecloth and close with a rubber band.
9. Let the ricotta stand for 30 minutes, gently pressing and squeezing the cheesecloth occasionally to drain off the whey.
10. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl and use at once, or cover and refrigerate.
With this delicious cheese, I'm going to try Maria's Baked Penne with Sausage, but I have to make some adaptations due to what was available at the market and store.
Baked Penne with Sausage and Creamy Ricotta (adapted from Food and Wine)
What You Need:
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- One 28-ounce can tomato puree
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon ground anise seed (substitute for fennel)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound penne
- 3 cups ricotta (homemade is best!)
- 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (post about mozzarella here)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
What You Do:
1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
2. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
3. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute.
4. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat, until browned, about 8 minutes.
5. Add the tomato puree, water, sugar, bay leaf and anise.
6. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
7. Simmer over low heat until thickened, about 30 minutes.
8. Remove the garlic, mash it to a paste and stir it back into the sauce; discard the bay leaf.
9. Meanwhile, cook the penne in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
10. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
11. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
12. Using a slotted spoon, add the cooked sausage to the pasta, then add 1 cup of the tomato sauce and toss to coat the penne.
13. Spoon the pasta into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
14. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the pasta and dollop large spoonfuls of the ricotta on top.
15. Gently fold some of the ricotta into the pasta; don’t overmix—you should have pockets of ricotta.
16. Scatter the mozzarella on top and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
17. Bake the pasta for about 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top.
18. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.