Cannoli dessert by Marlene Parrish.
ricotta cheese is like the man of my daydreams — suave,
flexible, accommodating and rich. No wonder I’m always on
the lookout at farmers markets, restaurants and grocery
stores. For ricotta, that is.
whole-milk fresh cheese is wonderful in dishes savory or
sweet, and it can be either a recipe ingredient or a
stand-alone treat. You can buy it or make it yourself.
often I make it. Hands-on time in the kitchen is about 30
minutes. It requires not much more work than adding an acid
to slightly salted, heated milk. The acid, which could be
yogurt, buttermilk or lemon juice, causes curds to form and
separates them from the whey, a semi-clear liquid.
colander with three or four layers of cheesecloth. Shake
drops of water onto the cloth until it is damp. Set the
colander in, or over, a larger bowl. Clip a candy
thermometer on the side of a large pot; add milk and a
little cream, and heat the mixture until the liquid reaches
185 degrees, about 20 minutes. (Some cooks maintain the
heat, some stir longer, some vary technique in other ways,
but the results remain the same.) Remove from the heat, stir
in a little salt and then slowly pour lemon juice over the
surface of the milk. Barely stir the mixture (the best
motion is a gentle lifting and folding) for a couple of
minutes, to encourage curds to form. The separation of curds
from whey is quite magical to witness.
do not dump, do not hurry, and do be gentle as you ladle the
curds slowly and gently into the cheesecloth-lined colander.
I prefer to dip in with a fine strainer about 5 inches
across rather than use a ladle. When all the curds are
transferred, fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the curds
to loosely cover and set aside. That’s it.
drain until you get a consistency you like. Thirty minutes
makes a very soft cheese. An hour and a half yields a
firmer, spreadable cheese. Four hours or longer produces a
dense, dry cheese. Over time, you’ll figure exactly how
long to take. I usually drain mine for an hour, which gives
me the option of further draining later, depending on the
recipe. Transfer the curds to a container, cover and
refrigerate up to a couple of weeks.
thin watery liquid in the pan is whey. Remember Little Miss
Muffett who sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey? It’s
the same thing. Yes, there are healthful nutrients in whey,
and although most recipes don’t advise keeping the liquid,
I’m of the waste-not, want-not school. To save, pour the
whey into a rinsed milk container, label it and return to
the refrigerator for later use. Try using whey instead of
water in your next batch of bread or pizza dough; it gives
the bread a sourdough tang. You also could add some to
mashed potatoes, soups or a smoothie.
WHOLE-MILK RICOTTA CHEESE
fact-checkers, know that ricotta means "twice
cooked" in Italian. There, it’s made from the whey
left when making mozzarella. Since we’re making it from
scratch, our recipe is kind of a "faux ricotta."
Delicious, all the same. Use fresh milk, cream and freshly
squeezed lemon juice. The recipe doubles easily, but best to
make a smaller amount the first time. Find cheesecloth in
most hardware and grocery stores; it is necessary to keep
small curds from escaping through the holes in the colander.
quarts whole milk
cup heavy cream
teaspoon kosher salt
cup fresh, strained lemon juice
colander with 3 to 4 layers of lightly dampened cheesecloth,
and set it in, or over, a larger bowl. Clip a candy
thermometer to the side of a heavy-duty 7- to 8-quart pot.
Pour the milk and cream into the pot and slowly warm the
mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the
thermometer registers 185 degrees, about 20 minutes. Watch
carefully, as milk likes to scorch.
from the heat; add the salt and stir until it dissolves.
Slowly pour the lemon juice over the surface of the milk.
Once all of the juice has been added, stir gently, using a
slow lifting motion, for 1 to 2 minutes to encourage curds
to form. When you begin to see the curds form, slowest
stirring is essential. Gently transfer the curds into the
colander using a strainer or perforated ladle. Do not pour
draining time determines the ricotta’s firmness. Fold the
ends of the cheesecloth over the curds to lightly cover, and
allow to drain anywhere from 30 minutes (for soft curds) to
4 hours (for a rather firm, dry cheese). Transfer the fresh
ricotta to a jar, cover and refrigerate.
about 2 and a half cups.
Adapted from Fine Cooking
GNOCCHI WITH PARMESAN, BROWN BUTTER AND SAGE
is a quick and easy weekday supper. Because I cook for two,
I saute half the gnocchi and freeze the rest. You can also
saute the gnocchi and serve them with a simple tomato sauce.
If you make a batch of caramelized onions in advance, you
can almost pretend they are pierogies, but with a subtle and
more complex flavor.
cup flour, plus additional for dusting
cup (3 ounces) parmesan cheese, freshly grated
of 1 lemon, grated
(8 ounces) whole milk ricotta cheese, drained
tablespoons unsalted butter
shallot, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
18 sage leaves
garlic clove, thinly sliced
of 1 lemon
cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
tablespoons parsley leaves, chopped
flour, parmesan cheese and lemon zest in bowl. In another
bowl, mix ricotta cheese, egg and salt. Add to the flour
mixture and stir until the dough just comes together. Do not
overwork or the dough can toughen.
the dough onto a well-floured work surface. Divide the dough
into 4 sections. Using your hands, lightly roll each piece
into a 12-inch rope. Cut each rope into 1/2-inch pieces.
Place pieces on 2 floured paper plates and refrigerate for
30 minutes or up to two hours to rest.
butter over medium-high heat in a saute pan large enough to
accommodate all gnocchi without crowding, but not so wide
that the sauce evaporates. When butter foams, add gnocchi
and cook, until light brown on all sides, about, 5-6
minutes. Use a spoon and a chopstick to flip the gnocchi.
gnocchi are almost cooked, lower the heat to medium and add
shallot and sage leaves; cook briefly, to release flavors,
then add garlic, lemon juice and water. Cook briefly,
allowing sauce to thicken a bit. Add parmesan cheese and
chopped parsley. Toss to coat the gnocchi.
gnocchi and sauce into shallow bowls, top with a sprinkling
of hazelnuts and serve right away.
about 40 pieces.
Chef Michael Symon
are pressed for time or feeling lazy, mix in the eggs
without separating them; the pancakes will be delicious,
just not quite as fluffy. One half recipe serves two nicely
when paired with a side of Canadian bacon, grilled right
along with the pancakes.
sour cream or plain yogurt
teaspoon baking soda
tablespoons lemon juice
teaspoons grated lemon zest
or neutral oil for the griddle
together the ricotta, sour cream or yogurt and egg yolks. In
another bowl, combine baking soda, flour, salt and sugar. In
third bowl, beat egg whites until fairly stiff.
griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat while you
finish the batter.
flour mixture into ricotta mixture, blending well, but not
beating. Stir in lemon juice and zest, then gently fold in
the beaten egg whites; they should remain somewhat distinct
in the batter.
about 1 tablespoon butter or oil to the griddle and coat the
surface. When hot, add batter by either a 1/3 cup measure or
large spoon. At this point, you can sprinkle blueberries
over the pancakes. Cook until bubbles appear at the pancake
edges and bottoms are lightly brown, then turn and cook on
the second side.
right away with butter and maple syrup.
"The Minimalist" by Mark Bittman
buy the shells, you can have "homemade" cannoli
any day you like. Drain the ricotta in a strainer set over a
bowl for at least a half hour before making the filling. You
can sweeten and spice to taste.
whole-milk ricotta, well-drained
cup confectioner’s sugar, or to taste
teaspoon ground cinnamon
teaspoon ground allspice
of a small lemon
cup heavy cream, whipped fairly stiff
chips, about 1/3 cup, divided
sugar for dusting
large or 12 small cannoli shells
the filling: in a medium bowl, whisk the ricotta until
smooth. Sift in the confectioner’s sugar and spices; add
the lemon zest and salt. In a separate bowl, whip the cream
until fairly stiff. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the
cream into the ricotta mixture. Stir in half the chocolate
chips. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.
fill the cannoli: just before serving, use a pastry (or
plastic) bag without a tip to pipe the ricotta into the
cannoli shells. Fill them from both ends so the cream runs
through the whole shell. Dust with a sifting of powdered
sugar and dip ends into remaining chocolate chips.
6 large or 12 small cannoli.
INVOLTINI WITH RICOTTA AND SCALLIONS
oven-to-table dish is pure comfort food, and you can make it
ahead and bake just before serving. Serve with good bread
and a salad.
medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise into 1/3-inch slices
and freshly ground pepper
fresh ricotta, drained
tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
scallions, thinly sliced
small clove garlic, crushed
to 2 cups marinara sauce, homemade or Rao brand, preferred
Italian parsley leaves for garnish
the oven to 450 degrees.
the eggplant slices on a baking sheet. Brush them with olive
oil and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper Bake about 15
minutes until soft and the edges are getting brown. Turn
over and bake about 10 minutes longer, watching so that they
don’t get too dark. Set aside.
medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta, egg, cheese,
scallions, garlic, nutmeg, a bit of salt and a few grinds of
the eggplant slices out on a work surface and place a
generous tablespoon of the ricotta filling at the base of
each slice. Roll the eggplant up around the filling to form
a neat roll and set seam side down on the work surface.
oil a baking dish just large enough to hold the roll-ups.
Pour most of the marinara sauce into the dish. Nestle the
rolls, seam side down, in the sauce. Spoon the remaining
sauce down the middle of the roll-ups. Sprinkle with a
little more parmesan cheese.
until the ricotta cheese starts to melt out of the rolls and
the sauce is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Drizzle with a little
olive oil, top with parsley and serve.
about 4 servings.
Adapted from "Molto Italiano" by Mario Batali
WAYS TO USE CREAMY RICOTTA CHEESE
Spread it: Spoon out a portion of ricotta, grate a little
shallot over it, add coarse salt and mix; drizzle with good
olive oil and a grinding of pepper and smear the savory
cheese onto toasted country-olive or sourdough bread for
breakfast. Try a sweet spread: Stir a little orange zest
into a portion of ricotta, barely dampen with a few drops of
heavy cream and spread onto toasted raisin-walnut bread. You
get the idea.
sundaes: Top a cold scoop of ricotta with slightly crushed
ripe strawberries and a drizzle of honey. Blackberries and a
sprinkle of brown sugar are almost as good. Or ricotta with
any seasonal fruit and honey is good and simple.
pancakes: Pancakes can be so rich and fluffy when ricotta is
added to beaten egg whites. Serve with good bacon for
breakfast or supper.
gnocchi: Potato gnocchi can be heavy and dense. But gnocchi
made with ricotta cheese and parmesan sauteed in brown
butter with sage is light, and high in protein. All you need
is a salad on the side.
eggplant Involtini: High protein and made without gluten,
this casserole of roll-ups is easy to make and a winner with
kids, too. Prep it ahead, and heat it up when the gang’s
pizza: Use it as a base instead of tomato sauce; spread the
cheese right on the round of raw pizza dough and add savory
toppings. Or, instead of spreading, drop the ricotta by
spoonfuls on the top of the pizza before baking.
cannoli: Ever wonder why almost all cannoli shells look
alike? That’s because very few bakeries and home cooks
make them from scratch. They are the devil to pull together;
there’s the dough, the stretching, the rolling around
metal forms, the hot oil, the frying, the mess. (I did it
once, never again.) You can buy a large quantity of pre-made
shells online, or buy just as many or few as you need from
your bakery (who, I bet, bought them wholesale).
filling, however, is a snap to make. Add sweetening and
spices to well-drained ricotta, pipe the filling into the
shell right before serving, dip the ends in mini-chocolate
chips and that’s it. To pipe, put the filling into a
plastic bag, squish the mass into a corner and snip off bit
of the corner. I prefer to make the dessert using small
cannoli shells. The big ones are overkill. Or over calorie,
and shells never seem to come out even. Since cannoli is
always about the crunch, you can lose the shape if you keep
the texture. Sandwich the filling between two waffle or
other cookies, or between pizzelles.