Well Dined


Homemade Ricotta – Summer’s Last Hurrah

I was browsing through blogs and found a series of recipes on Alexandra's Kitchen involving homemade ricotta cheese that looked perfect for the end of summer. The recipes all looked really great but I questioned whether or not making ricotta versus buying it would make that much of a difference. I decided to go ahead and try it since it didn't look all that difficult.

All you have to do is boil milk and cream, and add vinegar to curdle the milk.

Then you just strain the mixture through some cheesecloth until you get a texture that you like.

OH MY GOSH - I am now addicted to homemade ricotta. It is seriously the most delicious thing ever - smooth and creamy and without the sour funk that store bought can have. I loved it warm, right after it was done straining - I almost grabbed a spoon to start digging in right then and there.

I decided to show a little restraint and spread some of the warm ricotta onto a hunk of bread with basil and balsamic vinegar. Heaven. It took a lot for me to not eat the whole batch this way, but I did manage to save some for the other recipes I wanted to try.

First up was a fresh pizza with ricotta, nectarines, reduced balsamic, and basil...

...served with a gorgeous arugula and baby greens salad.

Next were grapes roasted with olive oil and thyme, paired with fresh ricotta and spread onto toasted bread.

I've been looking for excuses to put ricotta on anything - like this goat cheese and basil ravioli with pesto, ricotta, and lemon zest.

Seriously, DO THIS - you will not regret it. You can eat it with fruit, with pasta, turn it into a spread, whatever! I now have a serious addiction to making ricotta, and you will too.

Homemade Ricotta
from Ina Garten
makes about 2 cups

4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar

Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.

Pour the milk and cream into a large pot. Stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).

Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. (I like mine on the softer side, Ina likes hers thicker.) Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.

Ricotta and Nectarine Pizza
adapted from Alexandra's Kitchen

1 recipe pizza dough (instructions follow)
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
1/2 a nectarine, sliced thinly
olive oil
reduced balsamic vinegar
fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly

Roll out the dough, top with ricotta and nectarine slices, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. Bake 10 minutes at high temp (450-500 degrees), top with basil.

Pizza Dough
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes one 12 in thin crust pizza

1 1/2 cups flour (can replace up to 1/2 w/ wheat flour)
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 2 tablespoons more)
1 tbsp olive oil

Mix dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into a lumpy ball. Dump everything onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a homogeneous ball.

Knead it for 1-2 minutes. Lightly oil the bowl you mixed the dough in, return the kneaded dough to the bowl, turning over so that all sides are coated. Cover it in plastic wrap and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.

Gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under the plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12 inch round.

Roasted Grapes with Thmye, Fresh Ricotta & Grilled Bread
Adapted from Alexandra's Kitchen

olive oil
kosher salt
fresh thyme sprigs

good rustic bread, sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces
olive oil

homemade ricotta

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Spread grapes onto a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Lay thyme leaves over top. Toss all together gently with your hands. Place pan in the oven for 7 to 9 minutes or until grapes just begin to burst.

Meanwhile, heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high. Brush the bread with olive oil. Grill until toasted, with nice char lines.

Spread fresh ricotta over the bread. Top with the roasted grapes. Discard thyme sprigs.

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