Tag Archives: Ricotta

recipe goodness :: homemade ricotta and melted leeks — the easiest winning appetizer you MUST make

Homemade Ricotta

Homemade Ricotta

I don’t typically like to tell people what to do. But I’m going to tell you — and you’re going to listen to me — you must make this NOW. Sure, I get a little more experimental in the kitchen than most, but when I tell you this will have you channeling your inner Italian Grandmother with ease and will also have you wanting to make fresh ricotta everyday, I hope you believe me. The beauty of this recipe is 1) how easy it is, 2) how proud you will be that you made YOUR OWN ricotta, and 3) it will have your guests ooh-ing and aah-ing over this deceivingly perfect flavor combo — let’s face it, this is really just onions and milk we’re talking about. It happens to also be an extremely inexpensive way to create an impressive appetizer, so with the holidays around the corner let’s get curdling!

I’ve included a few other variations in case you want to serve this different ways at all your holiday line-ups {everything can be made ahead of time, so you can enjoy a cocktail instead of sweating over a hot oven}. Plus 1.5 lbs of ricotta will probably get you through 2-3 evenings, depending on the size of your crowd.

Homemade Ricotta 

Makes ~1 lb post-drained ricotta 

1 pint whole milk {I use Grazin’ Angus Acres}
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup cultured buttermilk
Maldon sea salt

Equipment:
Large 1 gallon+ pot {le creuset if you have one}
Cooking thermometer that reads to 200 degrees
Very fine cheesecloth or clean tea towel
String
Colander and large bowl

  1. Using a large 1 gallon+ stock pot {I use my le creuset} heat whole milk, cream, buttermilk and a few pinches of salt on medium heat until it comes to a light boil. Stir milk frequently to ensure bottom does not scorch.
  2. Boil milk for 2 minutes, stirring, then remove from the heat and let rest in the pot for 1 hour to let the curds form some more.
  3. Place a large colander over a large bowl in the sink. Line the colander with very fine cheese cloth or a clean white tea towel so edges hang over the edge of the colander.
  4. Slowly pour the curdled milk into the colander/cheesecloth, letting the whey pour through to the bowl below and keeping the curds in the cheesecloth. You can use the whey to soften the cheese later or simply discard.
  5. Lift the colander out of the bowl and grab the edges of the cheesecloth/towel together. Hold up and let drain for about 1 minute+ until the the ricotta reaches the consistency you desire.
  6. Note: I like to keep it a little creamy so it is easy to spread, but if it gets thicker than you desire, you can always pour a few tablespoons of milk {or the strained whey} back into the cheese to soften.
  7. When you’re ready to serve, season with maldon sea salt to taste and prepare any of the variations below or your own inspired pairing.
Appetizer Variations:

  • Serve with water crackers or garlic crostini {recipe below}
  • Top with warm melted leeks {recipe below}
  • Top with drizzled honey or your favorite chutney
  • Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt, a drizzle of good olive oil and fresh thyme, destemmed
p.s. you can also make this ricotta for Homemade Gnocchi and Sauce: Channeling My Italian Grandmother

Melted Leeks

1 bunch leeks
1 stick butter
Kosher salt

  1. Cut off and discard root end and half way up the firm green stems. Slice each leek in half lengthwise to expose inner layers. Add leek halves to a bowl of cold water to release dirt. Use your fingers to check and clean outer layers.
  2. Pat dry and place each leek half flat-side down on cutting board and cut into 1/4-inch thick half-circle slices.
  3. Melt butter in a large pan on low-medium heat {or the cleaned le creuset you just used for the ricotta} and add leeks.
  4. Slowly cook leeks in butter until tender, ~10-15 minutes. Turn heat down if they start to brown before they are soft. Add salt to taste.
  5. Serve immediately while warm with the ricotta on the side or place in an airtight container and reheat in the microwave for 20 seconds just before serving to soften butter.

Garlic-Rubbed Crostini

1 baguette
Olive Oil for brushing
1-2 garlic cloves

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Slice baguette at a 45-degree angle, creating 1/4-inch thick slices.
  3. Place slices side by side on a baking sheet. Brush each piece with olive oil and place in oven for 10-15 minutes until toasted.
  4. Remove baking sheet and while the crostini are still hot, rub a whole garlic clove with 1-2 swipes on each piece of bread.
  5. Note: can be made ahead of time on the day you plan to serve and stored in an air-tight container or bag once cooled, until ready to serve.

1. Pour whole milk, cream and buttermilk into a large pot

2. Heat to 200 degrees F, or until it starts to boil, stirring frequently

2. Turn heat off and let rest for 1 hour

3/4. Pour ricotta into cheesecloth-lined colander over a large bowl in the sink. {Bowl shown next to the colander to show whey that runs through}

5. Gather edges of cloth and tie tightly with string, hanging to let drain ~1-2 minutes

6. Voila! Homemade Ricotta

Melted Leeks

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This Week’s food52 Wildcard Winner: Grandma DiLaura’s Ricotta Gnocchi

Grandma's Ricotta Gnocchi

Photo: Sarah Shatz

My Grandma’s Ricotta Gnocchi just won this week’s food52 wildcard prize for the best ricotta recipe. If you haven’t made it yet, it’s time to buy some fresh, creamy ricotta and give this recipe a whirl.

Homemade Gnocchi: Channeling My Italian Grandmother with Food52

Pair that with a lovely homemade loaf of bread {it’s easy, I swear!}

Breadmaking 101: How to Make Bakery Quality Bread @Home

Looking for other inspiring home-cooked meals? There are endless amazing recipes to choose from on food52. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can whip up your best recipe with horseradish this week and see if you might just take home a prize and some bragging rights. I feel an evening of killer bloody marys coming on…

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Filed under 8.ate@eight, @home {recipes to love}, Do This!

Travel Bite: Puglia on a Plate

In honor of Puglia Wine Week and to bring you a special edition from the hills of Italy, I asked my brother to contribute a guest blog recapping the honeymoon highlights from Puglia. So much to say and eat, so grab a glass of vino and enjoy!

Guest Grubber: Brian D.
When we were choosing our honeymoon destination it was pretty daunting to know that we could go anywhere in the world we wanted and that we were about to escape for three weeks of uninterrupted freedom.  Since both of us are gainfully employed by companies we do not own, it was pretty clear to us that this opportunity doesn’t come around all that often.  Because of that, the paradox of choice kicked in in a big way and we struggled to narrow it down to a short list.  We made our way through all of the continents and ultimately came to the conclusion that we wanted to go somewhere with good weather, great food and to a place that neither of us had been before.

After checking the September weather patterns of almost every place on earth, our final decision was to travel to southern Italy and make our way by car from Puglia, through Calabria and into Sicily.  Interestingly, we went into the trip thinking that it was going to be all about Sicily, but now that we are home it is clear that the star of the three weeks was our time in PugliaPuglia, for those that don’t know, is the region of Italy in the “heel of the boot”.

Puglia, or Apulia, is an interesting place.  It is more agricultural, than industrial, and it is definitely a much less popular tourist destination than some of the bigger cities like Rome and Florence or areas like the Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast.  The accommodations in the area are based largely on the concept of Agritourism, where people stay at farmhouses, or “Masserias”, that were fortified back in the days when the landowners had to deal with foreign intruders and have since been converted into very comfortable bed & breakfasts.  The place we stayed was called Masseria Torre Coccaro, a 39 room country estate halfway between the airports of Bari and Brindisi and surrounded by acres of olive groves and vegetable gardens.

Masseria Torre Coccaro

We stayed at Coccaro for 7 nights and used it as our base to explore the region.  In hindsight, we couldn’t have chosen a better place and, unfortunately for our waistlines, we were able to sample some of the best food we have ever tasted.  Here are the highlight bites:

The restaurant at Torre Coccaro

Fresh Seafood from Savelletri

Set in stables from the 1600’s, the restaurant offered up some of the best food on our trip. First off, their breakfast put the rest of the hotels we stayed at to shame.  As for the rest of the meals, they collaborated with local farmers and bordering Masserias to source the best meats and cheeses.  They had a network of people that help them find wild products like porcini and cardoncelli mushrooms, asparagus, snails, myrtle and berries.  The nearby fishing village of Savelletri brought them fish daily, including freshly-caught scampi, shrimp, tuna, snapper, and local spiny lobsters. To top that off, almost all the fruits and vegetables served are produced on the estate.

Cooking School at Torre Coccaro
This wasn’t something we planned to do, but when we arrived at the property and learned that there was a school on site we couldn’t pass it up.  We had a ton of fun with chef Donato, learning how to make typical Apulian dishes including fresh bread, 6 or 7 different types of pasta, a simple pizza with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and capers, a fried version of a calzone called “Panzerotto” that is unique to the region, sautéed “sweet olives” that were picked that day and unlike anything I have ever had, an eggplant terrine and baked fish (Orata) with fresh vegetables.  Luckily we weren’t forced to eat everything we made, but we were able to sample most of them.  Needless to say, we didn’t have dinner that night!

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Local Puglia “Mozzarella Farm”
Another treat that was offered up on arrival was a visit to the farm just down the road that raised cows and made fresh mozzarella and burrata cheese daily.  For those that don’t know, “burrata” means buttered in Italian and is usually made from mozzarella and cream.  The outer shell is solid mozzarella and the inside usually contains both mozzarella and cream.  That said, this farm also made another version of burrata filled with fresh ricotta, which was new to me and even better than the classic version…who knew it was possible.  Believe it or not, we spent 45 minutes with 3 workers that spoke about 3 words of English, collectively.  It could have had something to do with the free samples they kept pushing on us, but we just couldn’t tear ourselves away.

Hand Pulling Mozzarella

Masseria Il Frantorio
Another masseria, Il Frantorio, just down the road and on the way to the town of Ostuni, gave us one of the culinary highlights of the trip.  They served up a seven course meal that was both creative and delicious.  So much so that we didn’t realize that the entire meal was almost entirely vegetables (sourced from their garden on the property of course, BUT vegetables nonetheless!)  It wasn’t until the last main course, when a filet of local swordfish was served, that we looked at each other and said “wow, I didn’t even notice”.  The highlight of the meal was a pair of fried carciofi (artichokes) drizzled with reduced sweet wine alongside lampascioni fritti (hyacinth bulbs) with orange honey.  Pretty simple, but super delicious when paired with a glass of late harvest Primitivo di Manduria.

Fried Carciofi at Il Frantorio

Al Fornello di Ricci
In the town of Ceglie Messapica lies a restaurant called Al Fornello di Ricci that Mario Batali called the best in Puglia.

“The place is perfect! If you are within 200 miles of this place and choose not to eat here, you are mistaken” Mario Batali

Needless to say, we are suckers for marketing, or at least Batali hype, so we had to check it out.  The meal did not disappoint.  Across the board, the dishes were simple, but the flavor of each was intense.  We knew we were in the right place when the tasting menu kicked off with a selection of eight different antipasti, ranging from simple beet chips to fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with fresh ricotta.  After that we had two pasta courses, a main of locally-raised lamb, and dessert — each course paired with a different wine and included in the fixed price.  Delicious. The only downside was the 45 minute drive back to Coccaro after the meal…as you might expect, driving on Italian country roads while in a food coma isn’t usually a recipe for success.

Fava Bean Crostini and Fried Zucchini Blossoms

I could probably keep going, as there are tons of other great meals and experiences that I left out, but it’s really just more of the same goodness.  So as the Italians say, “Basta!!!” or “enough”.

Overall the trip to Puglia far exceeded our expectations and the fact that it never felt touristy and overrun just made it that much more special.  We came home with the feeling that we had somehow outsmarted the rest of the tourists in Italy, standing in line at the Uffizi in Florence or craning their necks to take in the tower in Pisa.  We couldn’t be happier with our decision to spend a week there and in some ways wish it was longer.  Our only fear now is that we don’t get back before the rest of the world figures out what a great region it is!

Non Basta?
Do This!: First Ever Puglia Wine Week
Bistro Don Giovanni: Napa-Sourced & Italian-Inspired
Bocca di Bacco: I say PotaTO, You say PoTATo

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