Ricotta

Ummm…it’s really easy! Literally, anyone can make ricotta. You need only a few basic ingredients and a couple common kitchen supplies.

Making ricotta cheese from scratch is new to me. For years I was a Polly-o girl. Then I became a Calabro fan. But now, after seeing it continually pop up in Ina Garten’s cook books and finally trying it myself, I can’t imagine EVER buying pre-made ricotta cheese again. First and foremost, I love the consistency and the rich creaminess. The bonus is that it’s less expensive than buying a lesser quality pre-made, and I produce no waste from the commonly seen plastic tub it is sold in. What is better than that?

And lets face it- it’s pretty cool to be able to say you made your own ricotta cheese.

INGREDIENTS:

EQUIPMENT:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • White wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
  • Kosher salt
  • A basic sieve
  • Cheese cloth

*IMPORTANT NOTE: The milk and cream must NOT be Ultra- Pasteurized. The process of ultra pasteurization kills off the enzymes required for it to turn into cheese! (Trust me on this… I learned the hard way!) You will end up with a pot of hot dairy and nothing more.

Ricotta is an incredibly flexible ingredient. My absolute favorite way to use homemade ricotta is to make classic cheese raviolis, because, well, I am obsessed with making raviolis. This ricotta is so light, and I roll fresh pasta that is oh, so thin! The end result is like eating delicious, Italian air. It will also transform spaghetti and meatballs just by adding a dollop of ricotta in place of parmesan giving it a creamy, indulgent richness. Another favorite of mine is to serve it simply with crostini toast. Or, make fig ricotta cake, or ricotta pancakes, or scrambled eggs with a touch of ricotta. Or…just do as I do and grab a spoon and eat it right out of the bowl and hope no one catches you 😉

Ricotta Cheese
Prep Time
3 mins
Cook Time
3 mins
 
Course: cheese, condiment
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 4 cups whole milk (not ultra- pasteurized!)
  • 2 cups heavy cream (not ultra- pasteurized!)
  • 1.5 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar (MUST be fresh!) Lemon juice works too!
Instructions
  1. Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.
  2. Pour the milk and cream into a stainless-steel or enameled pot. Stir in the salt. DO NOT WALK AWAY from the stove top.

  3. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar or lemon juice. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. (Add more if you do not see it start to separate.) It will separate into (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).

  4. Carefully pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. (I like mine thick.) You can even bundle it and give it a gentle squeeze to remove even more moisture.

  5. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for at least 3 days.

Fall Harvest Platter

Ilove foods that encourage social eating. After all, that is what Feast & Merriment is all about!When I have company, no matter if it is one person or a large gathering, I make sure 3 things happen that help guests start relaxing right away.

  • Music is playing in the background
  • The wine is ready to pour
  • A platter of deliciousness is ready to dig into.

If these three things happen, the night (or day) is sure to be off to a really great start!

A good platter features a variety of food groups, a range of colors and textures, and is intended to be shared. It is often served at room temperature and can usually be made in advance, making it just about the perfect dish for entertaining.Pick a variety of items that complement and also contrast each other. Use lots of color and pile things high. There is no limit to your culinary creativity when making a platter!

  • Cheeses
  • Grapes
  • Figs
  • Dried Apricots
  • Olives
  • Cured Meats
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Honey
  • Nuts
  • Bread
  • Crackers
  • Cucumbers
  • Roasted or Fresh Peppers
  • Apple Slices
  • Roasted Garlic

Puff pastry is a really fabulous ingredient to incorporate into your culinary bag of tricks. It is extremely versatile, can be used to make both sweet and savory dishes, and will impress any guest! This easy recipe for Goat Cheese and Asparagus Tarts is one of my favorite uses for puff pastry. It is simple to make and the result is absolutely stunning.These goat cheese tarts are rustically refined, which is exactly what I am looking to achieve when I cook.Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tarts can be made in small, bite size versions or larger and served with a side salad for an entree. The results taste great, no matter the size. I often make these in bite size and serve as an hors d’oeuvre along with cocktails. They are always a hit and even better, can be made in advance!

I’ll share a secret. This recipe is an excellent platform for getting really creative with the flavors you like. Once you have the basics down and the onion mixture made, the opportunities are endless. I have made all kinds of tarts based on what I had on hand such as tomato and parmesan, mushroom and brie, and many more varieties. Asparagus and goat cheese is always a winner with my crew so it’s my “go-to” version, but don’t be scared to get creative and do your own thing here if you aren’t a fan of asparagus- just stick to the basics and your tarts will come out amazing!When using puff pastry, make sure you defrost it in the refrigerator overnight. You need it to remain cold, but it cannot be frozen or it will crack when you start to work it. This means you need to plan one day ahead when you make this tarts, but planning is really the hardest part!

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
55 mins
 
Course: Appetizer, brunch, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Servings: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 package puff pastry 17.3 ounces/2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted
  • olive oil
  • 4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions 2 large onions
  • 3 large garlic cloves cut into thin slivers
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • 4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese
  • 1 cup chopped, blanched asparagus
  • 12 large Basil leaves, julienned
Instructions
  1. Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square. Using a 6-inch round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  3. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.
  4. Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.
  5. Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Scatter the Asparagus in the center of each tart. Sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. 

  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve warm.