Did you know that to make ricotta at home you only need four ingredients?
The key kitchen gadget you will need is a thermometer. Now, don’t be put off by the word thermometer. There is a general feeling amongst people I come across who think that when a recipe requires a thermometer it must be complicated. If you are looking at a 25 process patisserie dish that requires a thermometer then sure, It probably will be complicated. But thinking logically, how complicated can a 4 ingredient recipe be my friends? Not very.
If you have ever wanted to experiment with making your own cheese, Ricotta is the perfect one to try. It will surprise you how quickly it takes to go from starting the dish to sitting down to a slice of bread topped with ricotta and drizzled with honey.
Ricotta is technically not a cheese as it is actually a creamy curd which has been cooked twice (hence the name “ri-cotta” meaning “re cooked”). Ricotta was developed by extremely resourceful Sicilian farmers wanting to get as much out of the by-product of their cheesemaking process by recooking the left over whey. It is wonderfully light and creamy and has a multitude of uses (in pasta fillings, sauces, toppings, pies, cakes, cannoli – the list goes on).
If you have a little bit of spare time on the weekend why not whip yourself up a batch of homemade ricotta? You will be proud of yourself when you sit down to eat the results, and will probably find yourself making it over and over again… like me!
Once it has reached 85 degrees, remove from heat and add the white vinegar to the pot stirring only once or twice to distrubute evenly (you will notice curds start to form straight away). Leave the pot untouched for 15 to 20 minutes for the curds to develop (the curds rise to the top and form ricotta and the remaining liquid is the whey).
Place a piece of cheesecloth inside a colander and place this on top of a larger bowl. Transfer the curds from the pot to the colander with a slotted spoon. Set aside the bowl and colander for 15 minutes allowing the whey to drain from the ricotta.
Pick up the cheescloth containing ricotta gently from the four corners. Twist the top and press down on the cheesecloth very gently in the colander squeezing out some of the remaining clear whey (if the liquid runs milky, stop squeezing).
Open the cheesecloth and there you have your Ricotta to use as you see fit.
I like to use Ricotta quite simply on toasted Italian bread topped with either savoury or sweet items – see below for my simple serving suggestions!
Serving Suggestion One – Savoury
Scotty and I often have savoury ricotta on toast as a Saturday or Sunday morning quick and easy breakfast. Top a toasted hand cut slice of Italian pane di casa bread with a couple of tablespoons full of ricotta. Top that with slices of avocado and tomato and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Finish off with salt and pepper and a few basil leaves.
Serving Suggestion Two – Sweet
The creaminess of ricotta lends itself to being paired with some wonderful sweet items.
For those who love berries, slice 5-6 strawberries and place in a bowl with a tablespoon of icing sugar and a healthy squeeze of lemon stirring well till syrupy. Top a slice of toasted Italian bread with a couple of tablespoons full of ricotta and a drizzle of honey. Add strawberries and syrup to the top and serve.
For lovers of bananas, slice one banana and place on a baking tray with a sprinkle of caster sugar on top. Pop under the grill until golden and caramelised. Top a toasted hand cut slice of Italian pane di casa bread with a couple of tablespoons full of ricotta and a drizzle of honey. Top that with slices of caramelised banana slices and serve.