I saw a recipe homemade ricotta a few months ago and it has been in the back of my mind as something to try. Lately I've had this hankering for some lasagna and thought that this would be a great time to try my hand at cheese making. As far as cheese go, ricotta couldn't be simpler. It doesn't require rennet or any special equipment aside from some cheesecloth and can be made in about 15 minutes, from start to finish. It can also be seasoned in a variety of ways from sweet to savory. The ricotta turned out perfect with a soft slightly grainy texture and a very mild flavor that tasted great once salted. I would love to make another batch and mix in some honey and toasted walnuts and spread on a toasted baguette or make a ricotta cake. There are just so many options for this mild and versatile cheese.
For the lasagna, I added a little olive oil and some basil and rosemary to the ricotta for flavor. I loaded the lasagna with roasted eggplant, zucchini, portobello mushrooms and carrots. Topped the noodles with a homemade marinara and smothered the whole thing with a tangy provolone cheese. It may not have been my husbands favorite, due to the veggies, but for me it was heaven and way better than any Italian restaurant. I actually threw this whole thing together, including the cheese making in about an hour. Not bad for a delicious meal that was almost completely made from scratch, next time I'll have to make the pasta too.
From the NY Times
2 quarts milk, preferably whole
2 cups buttermilk
1. Line a colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth and set in the sink or over a bowl.
2. Heat the milk and buttermilk in a large stockpot over high heat stirring constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan, to prevent scorching. When the milk reaches about 170° the curds will separate form the liquid. the milk will look like a cloudy water with very small curds mixed throughout. Turn off the heat and pour the mixture into the cheesecloth and let drain for about 5 minutes. Then gather the edges of the cheesecloth and gently pull together to remove any excess liquid. Do not squeeze unless you want a drier ricotta. Let drain for a few more minutes and season to taste.