In this weekly culinary column, I will be focusing on one dish – giving the reader a quick history of the dish, the classical preparation of it, and of course, my own spin on the classic.
This week I have chosen to cover ricotta – a dish that originated in Italy and dates back to the Bronze Age. Ricotta is a whey cheese and is made from the left over whey of cheese production. The word ricotta literally translates out to “cooked twice.” Even though fresh ricotta can be highly perishable, aged forms of ricotta are available. This ricotta recipe is a great base for any dish that contains ricotta such as cavatelli, ravioli or just eaten on its own.
Traditional ricotta recipe
1 gallonFresh whey
½ gallonWhole milk
¼ cupDistilled white vinegar
Place whey and milk into a large pot over medium heat. Allow milk and whey to reach 195 degrees while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. The whey will begin to curdle. Stir gently for 2-3 minutes. Place a coffee filter into a metal colander and gently pour your ricotta into the basket. Allow to drain for roughly 1 hour for a soft creamy texture, or up to 4 hours for a firmer texture.
Season and serve.
Jonathan’s ricotta recipe
½ gallonWhole milk
1 1/3 cupHeavy cream
1 1/3 cupButtermilk
3 ozLemon juice
Place milk, heavy cream, buttermilk and 2 oz of lemon juice into a medium sized pot over low-medium heat. Using a rubber spatula, gently scrape the entire surface of the bottom of the pan. Repeat every 5 minutes until curds start to form and whey gently bubbles when you scrape the bottom. Remove from heat and add remaining lemon juice. Gently stir. Using a small strainer, remove the bulk of the curds and place in a colander lined with cheese cloth. Gently pour remaining whey through the small colander to get remaining curds. Let sit for 30 minutes. Cool, season and serve.
Whether you choose to prepare the classic, my twist or your own interpretation, remember that food is about bringing people together and that the act of cooking is about caring and as long as your heart is in the dish you prepare, the people you are cooking for will appreciate it (and you).
If you have any questions for me or would like to see me cover any particular dish in this column, feel free to write me, care of this publication. From my kitchen to yours, it is my pleasure to give you a peek into the mind of a chef. Thank You
Jonathan Jolicoeur is a chef at A Tavola – an Italian restaurant on Church Street in Winchester – which focuses on “farm to table” style of cooking. Jonathan was born in Somerville, lives in Woburn and has a degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.