With all the great cheeses available in your local markets, most people would never think of making their own. Who has the time or the energy? Well, chef Maria Sinskey has other views. We asked her to show us how to prepare fresh homemade ricotta — it’s unbelievably easy. Once you try this you’ll never want to buy it from a store again.
Fluffy, rich clouds of freshly made ricotta: This special treat is so good you’ll want to sit there with a spoon and eat it like ice cream. My first taste of fresh ricotta was in Sonoma County, California, at Bellwether Farms. The cheese maker, Liam Callahan, had just finished packing the curds for a cow’s milk cheese into forms, and was heating a huge vat of leftover whey to make ricotta. He added some cream for richness, followed by salt and vinegar. It was a thrill to see the curds form in the swirling whey. Then, using a huge strainer, he lifted out the curds and handed me a few. They were warm, delicate and delicious.
This ricotta, made from whole milk and cream, is similar in texture and taste to ricotta made from whey. Everyone in your family, from the smallest to the tallest, will be amazed to see the curds form in the pot. And equally amazed when they eat it.
Ricotta isn’t just for filling lasagna and ravioli; it is super versatile and makes easy and delicious appetizers or yummy desserts.
Broiled Ricotta with Herbed Cherry Tomatoes
This fresh, light starter will make both kids and adults grin with delight.
Preheat a broiler. Halve 2 cups colorful cherry tomatoes and sauté in 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat just until warmed and beginning to release their juices, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp. minced garlic, 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano, and sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste; toss well. Transfer the tomatoes to a shallow baking dish and distribute 1 cup ricotta cheese evenly over the top. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and broil until the ricotta bubbles and turns golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Serves 4 to 6.
Fresh Ricotta with Honey and Strawberries
This is a fast and simple dessert that lets each ingredient shine.
Press 2 cups ricotta cheese into a small bowl to mold. Invert onto a serving dish. Drizzle with 3 Tbs. wildflower honey. Surround the cheese with 1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries. Serve additional honey on the side. Serves 4 to 6.
For more great recipes, tips and techniques, check out Maria’s book Family Meals.
Author of Family Meals, Maria is a devoted mother, noted chef and Culinary Director at her family’s winery, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, in Napa Valley, California. She believes strongly in the importance of the family table and eating locally and organically.