Ravishing Homemade Ricotta

Time for a little braggadocio. The Fresh Ricotta Cheese recipe in Italian magazine is melt-in-your-mouth perfection. (I was the project editor of the magazine, one of the Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications. It’s on newsstands now.)

I’ve never been a fan of ricotta cheese … until I taste-tested this recipe created by Juli Hale in the BH&G Test Kitchen.

The recipe is ridiculously simple. The result is ricotta nirvana: pillow-soft mounds of fresh, creamy, sweet ricotta cheese. There’s an herbed version with lemon peel and garlic that I’ve been spreading on everything. Ummm, irresistible.

And, teaser alert.

The magazine also includes my new favorite impress-the-guests recipe: Spinach-Ricotta Gnudi drizzled generously with sage-enhanced browned butter. Gnudi (pronounced new-dee) is the tender cousin of gnocchi. Gnudi  is made with ricotta instead of potatoes used in gnocchi. And just saying gnudi, which means, well, nude, makes for giggles when serving.

Fresh Ricotta Cheese

Makes  2 cups

8 cups whole milk
1 cup half-and-half or light cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup lemon juice

1. Rinse a nonreactive (stainless steel or enamel) Dutch oven with water (to keep milk from scorching). Add milk, half-and-half, and salt. Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan.

2. Cook over medium-high heat about 15 minutes or until mixture reaches 180°F, stirring and scraping bottom of pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Slowly add lemon juice, stirring for 1 minute or until curds form (don’t stir too much or curds turn rubbery). Remove from heat.

3. Line a colander with a triple thickness of cheesecloth and set over a large bowl. Drain mixture through colander. Continue to drain for 1 hour. Lift the ricotta by the edges of the cheesecloth. Gently twist to squeeze out any excess liquid; discard liquid. Place ricotta in an airtight container; cover. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Herbed Ricotta Cheese: Prepare as directed. After squeezing out excess liquid, stir in 1 tablespoon snipped fresh basil; 1 tablespoon olive oil; 1 teaspoon each snipped fresh thyme and fresh oregano; 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel; 2 cloves garlic, minced; and 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper.

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