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Homemade Ricotta

Tue Jun 10, 2008


Asparagus and Ricotta Ravioli with Favas and Sage Brown Butter

Never mind that the recipe was probably one of the easiest I’ve ever followed. A year ago, if you asked me whether I ever thought about making my own ricotta cheese I would have laughed, crinkling my brow like a concerned mother in a movie, and said plainly: no, never.

As frequent readers of SpicySaltySweet can attest, I do like making dishes from scratch. In fact, I get quite the kick out of deconstructing things I used to take for granted. A few years back I made a soupy mess that was my excuse for Greek yoghurt. I’ve made my own butter. I make fresh pasta almost weekly now. But cheese? Cheese is something spiritual—a vehicle for transcendence that no mere home cook could possibly concoct in her kitchen.

But when I stumbled across Julia Moskin’s article about ricotta in the New York Times two weeks ago, I became convinced that making my own would not require divine intervention.

So in less than an hour last Thursday night I made ricotta cheese, following Moskin’s simple instructions. And the results were transcendent. Not as sweet as store-bought ricotta, with a firmer texture, my homemade ricotta was bright and light with a curd that was velvety smooth.


Ricotta draining


Homemade Ricotta

Ricotta is a traditional Italian cheese that’s actually made from a byproduct of cheesemaking: whey. It literally means “re-cooked” and it is made by heating the whey and adding a bit of acidity, causing the curds to separate. It is delicious when made with cow’s milk cheese, and I really love the sheep’s milk version, which has a slight tang and a deeper, more complex flavor.

The best part about making ricotta, as opposed to any other type of cheese, is its versatility. Spread ricotta on grilled bread, with a little sautéed radicchio, drizzle it with honey and top with fresh leaves of rosemary and you have an elegant bruschetta to serve at a dinner party. Mix with sugar, egg whites, lemon juice, orange zest, spices and chocolate chips for cannoli filling. Bind it with egg, Parmesan, nutmeg and flour for gnocchi. Savory or sweet, ricotta can add dimension or foundation to a meal any night of the week.

It was hard to decide what to do with my ricotta, with so many options. But I finally decided on asparagus and ricotta ravioli with favas and sage brown butter. It was the perfect farewell to spring (though, fortunately both vegetables will be around all summer, their peak season is springtime).

Asparagus and Ricotta Ravioli with Favas and Sage Brown Butter
adapted from Bon Appétit

1 lb slender asparagus
¾ cups fresh ricotta
1 tsp fresh mint, chopped
1 large egg

Fresh Pasta
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (preferably Italian 00)
3 eggs, beaten
pinch of salt

1 lb favas, shelled
4 tbsp butter
1 tsp fresh sage, chopped

Remove the tough, bottom portion of the asparagus. Cut up the remaining vegetable into ½-inch pieces. Cook in saucepan with boiling, salted water until slightly tender, about 2 minutes. Shock in ice bath to set color. Pat dry and mix, in a large bowl, with ricotta, mint and egg. Set aside. **You may want to reserve a scant ½ cup of asparagus for the sauce.

Following either the well method or using the paddle attachment on your mixture, slowly incorporate eggs into flour and salt mixture to make pasta dough. If the dough is too wet, add a little flour, if the dough is too dry add a little water. When the dough just comes together, switch to your dough hook or knead by hand, about 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic and let rest for at least 15 minutes.

Roll pasta out into sheets either by hand or using a pasta roller to desired thickness (7 on a pasta roller). Spoon mixture onto half the dough lengthwise, spacing it about 2 inches apart. Fold the other half of the dough over to cover the filling. Cut ravioli using a pastry wheel or a ravioli cutter. (You can also cut using a knife, but crimp the edges of the ravioli with a fork to keep sheets of pasta from separating). Place filled ravioli on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. **I find it easiest to roll one sheet of pasta, fill it, then roll the next, continuing until I’ve used all the dough. Rolling all of the sheets ahead of time puts them at risk for drying out before you’ve got them filled.

Boil a large pot with salted water to cook ravioli. While water is boiling, melt 1 tbsp of butter in a sauté and cook favas until tender. Toss in reserved asparagus to warm. Set aside.

Melt remaining butter in sauté with chopped sage. When butter starts to brown, remove from heat.

Add ravioli to pot of water and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Cooked ravioli will float to the top. Plate ravioli, about 6-7 per person, top with favas and asparagus and drizzle with brown butter and sage.

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6 Responses to “Homemade Ricotta”

  1. Brooke Says:

    Uh, yum! Three great things that go great together! Home made ricotta (check)! Fresh favas (check)! Browned butter with sage (check)!

    Okay, that’s it! I need to come by and borrow your Kitchenaid so I can try my hand at pasta making!


  2. My Sweet & Saucy Says:

    The pasta looks delish and the homemade ricotta made my mouth water!

  3. sue bette Says:

    I made ricotta at home a couple of weeks ago and was surprised at how easy it is! Now I just need to find a source for sheep’s milk. Your ravioli look wonderful!

  4. Homemade Ricotta « Food Porn Daily Says:

    […] A big ball of cheese could brighten anyone’s day… and Leah at SpicySaltySweet says it’s […]

  5. missginsu Says:

    A good-looking, simple recipe. And the ricotta looks grand… if only I could find myself some fresh favas, I’d be set.

  6. Sorina Says:

    It look’s to good to be through I am definitely going to try this

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