Sunday, April 7, 2013

Aparagus, Ricotta and Mushroom Pizza

This was another awesome recipe I tried out with my homemade ricotta.  SO yummy.  We have been having lots of asparagus these days!  Which means spring is on its way... it HAS to be people (longest winter ever in Voorheesville!)

Asparagus, Ricotta and Cremini Mushroom Pizza 
(adapted from Real Simple)

  • 1  pound pizza dough, at room temperature
  • cornmeal, for the baking sheet
  • 1  pound asparagus, trimmed and halved lengthwise and crosswise
  • 5  ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta (see how to make your own)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • [optional: arugula tossed in lemon juice to top]
  1. Heat oven to 425° F.  Roll out the dough to desired shape and place on cornmeal-dusted baking sheet.
  2. Brush dough with some olive oil, top the dough with the asparagus, mushrooms, and garlic, then the ricotta, Parmesan, and a little more oil. Season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Bake on pan (or pizza stone) until the crust is golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes.
  3. Optional: top with arugula tossed in lemon juice. 

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

I have wanted to make ricotta pancakes for some time and finally had the perfect occasion with some homemade ricotta in the fridge that needed using.  This was a wonderful Easter brunch.  These ricotta pancakes are super light and fluffy because of the beaten egg white, and are lower in calories than many other recipes I looked at, containing no milk, butter, and very little sugar.

This recipe is from Gourmet magazine, which suggested pairing the pancakes with sauteed apples.  I chose instead to accompany these pancakes with blueberries, which I submerged in syrup for a little while before serving, along with a little powdered sugar.  Delicious! Here's the recipe

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
(adapted from Gourmet - September 1991)
makes about 10 small pancakes (serves 2)

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 1/3 cups ricotta see how to make your own!
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (I used a little more and added some lemon juice from half a lemon as well)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • melted butter for brushing the griddle
  • maple syrup,  berries, and powdered as an accompaniment

In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest I also added some lemon juice from half a lemon).  Then add the flour, and stir the mixture until it is just combined.

In a bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold stiff peaks, whisk about one fourth of them into the ricotta mixture, and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Heat a griddle over moderately high heat until it is hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface and brush it with some of the melted butter. Working in batches, pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4-cup measures and cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden, brushing the griddle with some of the melted butter as necessary.

Transfer the pancakes as they are cooked to a heatproof platter and keep them warm in a preheated 200°F. oven.

Serve with maple syrup, berries, and powdered sugar.  Enjoy!

Penne with Ricotta and Spinach Sauce

This is a great recipe from Marcella Hazan.  Simple and wonderful with fresh ricotta (see how to make your own!).  I used frozen spinach and it worked great -- although I'm sure fresh would be good too if you are willing to put in the extra steps.

I also halved the butter in this recipe and it did not suffer (the original recipe calls for 1/4 pound or a full stick and I got away with maybe 3 to 4 Tablespoons.  Reserve a little of the pasta water to mix in to this at the end.

 Here's how to make it:

Penne con Spinaci e Ricotta
(Penne with Ricotta and Spinach Sauce)
serves 4 to 6


2 pounds fresh spinach* or 2 (10-oz) packages of frozen, chopped spinach, thawed (see note below)
1/4 lb. butter (1 stick) (I used half this amount)
salt to taste
1 pound penne or other short tubular macaroni
1/2 cup fresh whole-milk ricotta (I used more) (see how to make your own!)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Choose a skillet that can contain all the spinach later without overcrowding.  Put in 4 Tbs butter (I used 2 Tbs here) and turn heat to medium high.  When buter is melted, add spinach and a liberal 2 to 3 pinches of salt (bear in mind that this and the ricotta will be the principal component of the sauce and ricotta has no salt, so season liberally).  Saute spinach for 2 minutes or so, turning frequently, then turn off the heat.

Cook pasta in 4 to 5 quarts salted boiling water until tender but al dente, firm to the bite.  Set aside some pasta water before draining pasta in a colander, shake vigorously and transfer pasta to a warm serving bowl.  Add spinach from the pan, ricotta, remaining 4 Tbs (I used 2 Tbs here) of butter, and all the grated cheese.  Add pasta water as needed.  Mix thoroughly and serve at once.

*Note:  I used frozen spinach.  If you use fresh spinach, remove and discard the stems, soak spinach in several changes of basins of cold water, dunking it with your hands until no more grit appears, and then cook the spinach in a covered pan over medium heat with a pinch of salt until no more water is clinging to the leaves, and then cook until tender, about 10 minutes more.  Drain well and when spinach is cool enough to handle, press as much liquid from it as you can, but do not squeeze too tightly.  Chop spinach fine and set aside.


Holy Ricotta!

Wow! Who knew that ricotta was so easy to make and so GOOD when you do it yourself?!  Having leftover buttermilk on hand from my Irish Soda Bread making days that needed to be used before it went south, and having been told by a friend that buttermilk can be used to make ricotta, I decided to give it a go.  It was wonderful and SO SIMPLE.  I used it to make a Penne with Ricotta and Spinach Sauce, Asparagus, Ricotta and Mushroom Pizza, and Lemon Ricotta Pancakes.  

All you need to make this is:

1 gallon of whole milk
1 quart of buttermilk

Equipment: a large heavy pot, a mesh strainer and some cheesecloth.


Combine the milk and ricotta in a large 7 quart pot over low heat, stirring occasionally, very gently until warm.  Curds will start to form.  When mixture reaches 170 degrees, turn off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes.  Then line a mesh strainer with several layers of cheescloth, place over a bowl or the sink, and scoop curds into strainer.  Spoon/pour liquid over until all the curds are in the strainer.  Let strain over a bowl or the sink for at least an hour.   Put ricotta into an airtight container and keep chilled.  Use immediately or within a couple days.  

Check out some of these recipes for ideas of what to use it for:

It is also really awesome crumbled on toast with a bit of honey or slivered nuts.  Yum!