With strawberries getting better by the week, it’s time to make fresh ricotta. You can do it. All you need is an instant-read thermometer and liquid rennet. Start to finish, the process takes less than 45 minutes. Imagine how good that first spoonful of warm, fluffy ricotta is going to taste.
I learned to make ricotta from Maria Dito, a Calabrian immigrant, who has probably made thousands of pounds in her lifetime. Maria’s husband, Vincenzo, was a shepherd and farmer before the couple settled in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1970s.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of collaborating with their daughter, Rosetta Costantino, on My Calabria, a cookbook that includes Maria’s ricotta recipe in detail. I’ll be demonstrating the recipe, as well as a couple of spring dishes using it, in a ricotta class at SHED in Healdsburg on Sunday, May 1. Reserve here.
In Calabria, Maria and Vincenzo made ricotta the traditional way—with sheep's milk and whey leftover from Vincenzo’s pecorino cheese production. In California, Maria and Rosetta use store-bought cow’s milk with a little cream added to bring the mixture closer to the high fat content of sheep’s milk. Their ricotta comes as close to what I’ve had in Italy as anything you can buy.
I went to Rosetta’s Oakland home this week for a refresher course and to videotape Maria making ricotta. If you follow the method carefully, you’ll have two pounds of luscious, tender homemade ricotta in no time.
- Make a frittata with ricotta. (This recipe is in My Calabria.)
- Spread ricotta on breakfast toast.
- Spoon ricotta on top of rigatoni with tomato sauce.
- Spread ricotta on toast, then top with:
- olive oil and cracked black pepper
- halved cherry tomatoes, raw or oven-roasted
- roasted peppers
- honey and poppy seeds
- sugar and grated bittersweet chocolate