I’m going semi-hardcore into the DIY cooking – this recipe includes making your own cheese! But please, it’s ricotta.
There is something immensely satisfying about making ricotta cheese. It’s the perfect vehicle for spring vegetables and herbs in many different settings.
Also, the difference between fresh ricotta and store bought is immense, especially when you need to make ricotta gnocchi.
Ricotta in Italian actually means “twice cooked,” referring to ricotta’s origins as the cheese made from whey that was used to make mozzarella. While I’m sure you could make ricotta using mozzarella whey, you won’t get a big yield.
I adapted the Martha Stewart recipe and it ends up yielding maybe two cups if you are lucky. My substitution was to omit the cream and replace it with another cup of milk.
Also, I find that Meyer lemons from the Oakland backyards are smaller than other types.
While I’ve seen T.V. shows and YouTube videos where you bring the milk to a simmer, add lemon juice and the whole shebang begins to separate into curds and whey (my experience is much messier). I warn you, that the process may mean that you bring the milk up to a boil to get the curds and whey to separate.
I have also had to keep it at a boil much longer than the recipe called for.
Five cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (optional)
Juice of one regular lemon or two Meyer lemons
Combine milk, heavy cream, and salt (if using) in a nonreactive heavy bottomed saucepan. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
Add lemon juice and continue to boil, stirring constantly until curds separate, about one minute. It may be necessary to adjust the heat to prevent cream from overflowing.
Pour into a very fine-mesh stainless steel strainer. Place strainer over a bowl that is deep enough for the strainer to sit over, and do not touch the liquid.
Allow cheese to drain for one hour in the refrigerator. Discard liquid and transfer ricotta to a covered container.
Refrigerate until ready to use, or up to three days. If you add ¼ cup of chopped herbs, this makes a great topping for bread.
Note: To make gnocchi, you want very dry ricotta, so leave it in the strainer for three hours.
Fava bean and ricotta puree – Fava beans are in season right now so get on it. If you can’t find fava beans, edamame is a good substitute.
One cup of shelled and blanched fava beans
One scallion, chopped
¼ cup of herbs of your choice – I like a combination of mint, parsley, tarragon, and chervil, but I would avoid the “woodier” herbs like sage, rosemary and thyme.
Zest and juice of one Meyer lemon
One cup of homemade ricotta
Salt and pepper to taste
Put the first four ingredients into the food processor and process until coarsely blended. It should be the consistency of hummus. Add the ricotta and blend until combined. Finally, add salt and pepper on top of crostini. This is the perfect way to taste.
Ricotta Gnocchi from the Epicurious Recipe
Two cups whole-milk ricotta (one pound)
Two large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (three ounces), divided
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Stir together ricotta, eggs, one cup cheese, nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add flour, stirring to form a soft and wet dough.
Shape dough on a well-floured surface with lightly floured hands into two (one-inch-thick) ropes. Cut crosswise into one-inch pieces with a lightly floured knife.
Put in one layer on a lightly floured parchment-lined baking sheet. I highly recommend freezing it first.
I found that my gnocchi stays together better that way when you actually cook it.
Cooking the gnocchi – boiling method – cook gnocchi in two batches in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (three tablespoons salt for six quarts water), adding a few at a time to pot and stirring occasionally (until cooked through). Then cut one in half to check and leave for three to four minutes per batch.
Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain in colander. Toss with butter or a really fruity olive oil. Top with chopped parsley.
Cooking the gnocchi – potsticker method – melt butter into a nonstick saute pan until it’s sizzling. Put the frozen gnocchi in a single layer and brown on all sides. Add about two tablespoons of water, then cover, and let it cook for about five minutes.