Home-made ricotta is a snap

T’WAS A DARK AND STORMY day, the kind that requires something to be in the oven to ward off the dampness and chill. After whipping up a few batches of granola bars and bread, I began to think about what to do to keep the oven going.

“How about lasagna for dinner?” I inquired. I knew this question needed no affirmative response. Sherry is ready for lasagna the way I am ready for briani.

Home-made lasagna, with noodles and ricotta made from scratch.

It was then, however, that I remembered I was missing one critical ingredient: ricotta cheese.

It was then that I also recalled reading about making your own ricotta, and that it was not a daunting task. A little research corroborated my memory.

All you need to make your own ricotta cheese is: lemon juice, vinegar, milk. You can add salt if you like. Oh, you will also need a cheese cloth or a reasonable facsimile. The process is quite simple:

  1. Bring one half gallon of milk to a simmer, about 200 F (94 C). Take off burner.
  2. Add 1/3 cup (78 ml) lemon juice and 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar.
  3. Let the milk curdle. This will take about 15 minutes or so.
  4. Strain the liquid through a cheesecloth. If you don’t have one, you can use any cloth with a loose weave in it. This process can take about 15 to 20 minutes. The longer you let it strain, the dryer the ricotta will be. It’s really up to you.
  5. You have now separated the “curds” from the “whey,” or the liquid. There are things you can use they whey for, but I’ll let you do your own research on that.

Now, full disclosure. I had only a quart of half and half. I still added the same amounts of vinegar and lemon juice. The end result was a very light and fluffy texture and a zesty flavor.

I’ve written before about making home-made lasagna noodles, which I find easier to do than actually using store-bought. The advantage is that the home-made noodles can be applied to a baking dish while raw (you don’t need to boil them) and this makes it quite easy to keep them in place prior to layering the dish with cheeses and sauce. It’s kind of like making a pie crust.

We also happened to have fresh cilantro and basil straight from the garden. I made a vegetarian sauce with these, tomatoes and Beyond Meat as a substitute for beef or sausage. In the above collage, I did omit one step: adding shredded mozzarella atop the sauce prior to layering the final noodles. I also covered the dish with aluminum foil and then baked at 350F (175C) for about 45 minutes.

That’s it! Comfort food for an inclement day.

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