For the Ziti, since I had an exam, I made it shortcut. I used a canned tomato sauce, a few fresh herbs, some mushrooms and three types of cheeses (New Zealand cheddar which is most common in Trinidad, Parmesan and Ricotta). However, I did make the ricotta from scratch... sort of a personal touch.
It's actually surprising how simple it is to make ricotta. It's obviously not the sheep's milk whey type of ricotta, but it tastes great, and it's not full of chemicals or preservatives. It's a whole milk homemade variety using cow's milk. Traditional ricotta uses the leftover whey from making other cheeses. However, this type uses the actual curds gathered and the whey is leftover.
Homemade (Whole Milk) Ricotta
- 1 Liter (32oz./4 cups) Milk
- 2 Tbsp Distilled White Vinegar/Lime Juice
- (optional) 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
- 1 Tsp. Salt
- In a medium pot/saucepan, heat the milk (and heavy cream, if using) on medium low heat, stirring occasionally to avoid scalding the milk. If the milk scalds, the ricotta would have a burnt smell that isn't very pleasant.
- JUST before the boil, remove milk from heat and stir in salt. It is important to heat the milk enough so that it curdles properly but not too much that it scalds. It's not as complicated as it sounds. However, if you want to be exact and use a thermometer, 180º F is about what you're looking for.
- Allow to sit for 10 minutes to an hour.
- Line a colander/strainer with cheesecloth or some fine-meshed cloth and remove curds from liquid with a slotted spoon. Leave the liquids to drain for 30-minutes up to a few hours, depending on how dry you want it. To speed up the process and to get a firmer cheese, gently squeeze the liquid occasionally.
- Store cheese in the refrigerator and use within the week.
Hopefully she enjoyed the meal, and I'll definitely be making some more soon to make homemade ravioli. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled depending on how much cheese you need/want.