homemade ricotta

ricotta is a super versatile, creamy cheese. i am planning to make stuffed ravioli pasta in a few days, so i decided to try making the ricotta cheese from scratch. it was surprisingly easy and incredibly smooth. the ingredients are simple and easy to find.

ricotta ingredients

ingredients:

  • 8 cups of whole milk (1/2 gallon)
  • 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar (optional)
  • cheesecloth

the steps are pretty simple. lots of waiting and watching. here we go!

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  1. in a large stock pot or other deep pot, slowly bring the milk and cream to a boil.
  2. once there is a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and add the salt. once the salt is stirred in, slowly add the lemon juice. ps- this lemon juice is from costco and is really yummy. my husband and i drink it every morning with a little water for its cleansing qualities and health benefits. that’s a little tip from my father in law!
  3. cook for 20-30 minutes or until you see curds starting to form on a low boil. if it feels like the curds aren’t forming, add a teaspoon of white vinegar to hurry the process. the vinegar/ citrus is supposed to help separate the curds from the whey. (the whey is the liquid that we will dispose of later when straining.)IMG_3675
  4. in the meantime, take a large bowl and place a strainer inside it. next, please the cheese cloth on top of the strainer and make sure there is enough room so that you can tie up the cheese cloth later.IMG_3674
  5. once the mixture has boiled long enough and the curds are forming, pour the mixture over the cheese cloth slowly and let it strain.IMG_3677
  6. after a few minutes, tie up the bundle of ricotta in the cheese cloth and hang from your sink faucet to drain fully. i like creamier ricotta so i let it hang for about 25 minutes but you could hang for an hour for more dry ricotta. if you like super moist ricotta, hang for as little as 5 minutes.  IMG_3681
  7. after hanging, untie the cheese cloth and pour into a bowl. the cheese will last about 7 days in the fridge.

you could spoon some ricotta onto some toast with honey, use it in a healthy bruschetta snack or add a couple of dollops to marinara sauce. check back soon to see how i use it in ravioli! happy eating

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homemade ricotta

italian rigatoni & spicy meatballs

italian_rigatoni_w_spicy_meatballs__ copy

this is one of my favorite easy recipes. you can go all out and make your own marinara sauce or you can use a big short cut and buy your favorite jar of store-bought marinara and enhance.

ingredients for the meatballs:

  • 1/2 cup finely diced onions (optional- i didn’t use them)
  • 2 teaspoons evoo
  • 2 crushed & minced garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup parmesan reggiano
  • 1 1/2 pounds of ground meat (I used 1/2 pound beef, 1/2 pound veal, 1/2 pound spicy italian sausage)
  • 1 cup italian breadcrumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

directions for meatballs:

  1. begin by heating up the extra virgin olive oil in a sauce pan. add garlic and the onion. cook until soft.
  2. preheat oven to 350 f.
  3. mix the meats, breadcrumbs, parmesan, parsley, salt, water and red pepper flakes.
  4. sear meatballs for a few minutes in a pan just to brown the outside.
  5. finish cooking the meatballs in the oven for 15 minutes.

ingredients for assembly:

  • cooked rigatoni pasta
  • 2 table spoons of evoo
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella
  • 1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
  • parmesan to taste
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • fresh chopped italian parsley to garnish

for the assembly:

  1. cook rigatoni according to package.
  2. heat extra virgin olive oil in large sauce pan. my favorite is the le creuset “every day pan.”
  3. add crushed garlic, salt, italian seasoning and any other spices that you’d like until browned.
  4. add your favorite jar of marinara sauce and mix together.
  5. add cooked rigatoni.
  6. add mozzarella, parmesan, and meatballs. mix together.
  7. bake in oven for 2 minutes.
  8. top with italian parsley garnish and serve.

enjoy!

italian rigatoni & spicy meatballs

TOM KHA GAI

What a fun dinner! This is one of my favorite dishes when we go out for Thai food. My favorite Thai restaurant is Thai Kitchen in Austin on Guadalupe. There I was, sitting in Houston craving Thai Kitchen so I decided to make Tom Kha Gai (I believe it translates to ‘chicken coconut soup’) myself! My mother in law makes this soup during the Christmas holidays and my husband has always loved it. I have looked and combined many recipes to create my own.thom kha gai

Ingredients:

  • 1 half package of cellophane or vermicelli noodles (or more if you like, it doesn’t matter)
  • 2 Thai peppers (or jalapenos) seeded and sliced
  • 3 minced cloves of garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 6 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1-2 cups of sliced white or shitake mushrooms (you can also use any other kind that you have)
  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • 1 cup of spinach
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breats- cut these into skinny strips
  • Few teaspoons of chili oil for garnish
  • Few tablespoons of chopped coriander for garnish.

Here is my recipe:

  1. Begin soaking your vermicelli or other cellophane noodles in boiling water for about 10 minutes or until tender, then drain.
  2. In a medium pot on medium-high, add the grated ginger, lemon juice, lemon and lime zest, salt, garlic, fish sauce and Thai peppers. Cook 2 minutes.
  3. Add chicken broth slowly and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add mushrooms. Simmer 3 minutes.
  5. Add coconut milk and chicken. Cook for about 4 minutes or until the chicken is cooked all the way through. Add the spinach and cook 1 more minute until the spinach is wilted.
  6. Using tongs, divide the noodles into the bowls and then ladle the soup on top.
  7. Top with chopped coriander and a few sprinkles of chili oil.

You could also get creative and add in more veggies such as snap peas or top with other garnishes. Ours was delicious and I can’t wait to make it again!

 

TOM KHA GAI

thursday night steaks

For some reason, I usually want to cook a big meal on Thursday nights. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s super close to the weekend. Last Thursday, I decided to pick up a couple of dry aged steaks from our neighborhood HEB. When I got home, I soaked them in a marinade made with a few cups of a nice Cabernet Sauvignon, a few dashes or Worchester sauce, a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, salt, fresh cracked black pepper and a tiny bit of garlic salt. This is my own version of my Dad’s steak recipe. His steaks are my favorite! Then I grilled them on my favorite grill pan until they were medium rare. I added the rest of the red wine marinade into a small sauce pan and boiled it down to a thicker sauce then spooned it across the steak.

steak

I decided to boil some corn on the cob and top with salt, pepper and a tiny bit of olive oil. We don’t have corn on the cob very much, but I was feeling nostalgic and the corn on the cob reminded me of childhood weekends in the hill country.

Along with the steak and corn, I decided to make a little medley of vegetables. I added a little bit of olive oil to a sauté pan and then added some snap peas, kale and shaved brussels sprouts. I sprinkled in some of my favorite garlic vinaigrette for a tangy flavor, added some crushed black pepper and topped with a few shavings of some salty pecorino cheese. Yummy!

thursday night steaks

Cacio E Pepe

Getting home late after a long day, sometimes all I want is a simple pasta. Simple, but delicious, this dish has many dimensions. The saltiness of the pecorino and parmesan contrasts the cracked black pepper and the butter makes it super smooth to taste.

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Ingredients:

  • 6 oz pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil if you prefer)
  • 1/3 cup pecorino
  • 1/3 cup parmesan
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
  1. Boil 6 oz. of any type of pasta that you prefer in salty water. I prefer angel hair pasta or even capellini, but you can use whatever you prefer. You can adjust this pasta recipe to a smaller portion if you are just making for one person.
  2. Drain pasta and rinse quickly with cold water. Drop a few teaspoons of butter and let it melt down.
  3. Using a Microplane, grate a 1/3  cup each fresh parmasean and pecorino. If you only have parmesan, you can just use that as well. Pour into the pasta and toss.
  4. Add about a teaspoon or two of fresh cracked black pepper and toss. It may seem like a lot, but the pepper adds a lot of flavor and the more, the better!
  5. Ta-da!

If you’d like to make this a full meal, you can top it with pretty much anything. In the picture below, I roasted an herb coated pork tenderloin, sliced and served over the pasta and then drizzled a homemade pesto oil over it all. It was so yummy and can be used in so many different ways. Try tossing in some lemon, oil and shrimp!IMG_0632

I like to think of this as an adult version of ramen noodles. Enjoy!

Cacio E Pepe