1 gallon milk
1 tsp citric acid
1 tsp cheese salt
1/2 cup of grated romano or parmensan cheese
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Ground nutmeg to taste
8 oz dry pasta I used shells but any kind would work
2 cooked italian sausages
1 handful of baby spinach
Step 1: Make the Ricotta Cheese
I'm sorry I don't have pictures of the ricotta cheese during the creation process. I didn't think the end product would be so fantastic that I just had to share.
I bought a cheese making kit and started with ricotta cheese. The kit contained citric acid, cheese salt, an instant read thermometer and cheesecloth. I would think you could use store bought ricotta but you want to drain it a bit so that the cheese is dry.
This is so ridiculously easy I'm ashamed I've never done it before because I'm such a cheese lover. There are lots of recipes out there on how to make ricotta cheese. You do not need to buy a kit.
Measure 1 teaspoon of citric acid or lemon juice into 1/2 cup of non-chlorinated water and stir until dissolved.
Step 2: Add the Milk and Citric Acid
Pour 1 gallon of whole milk (organic, plain pasteurized, un-homogenized and/or raw milk into a large pot. Do not use ultra-pasteurized or ultra-heat pasteurized milk.
Pour the citric acid solution into the milk and stir throughly. You can add 1 teaspoon of cheese, canning or kosher salt. It must be non-iodized salt or the curds will not form.
Step 3: Heat the Milk
Heat the milk to 185F degrees (do not allow to boil over) over a medium low heat. Do not stir the milk or the curds will not form. Check the temp regularly with your thermometer. Reduce the heat if you can feel the milk sticking to the bottom of the pot. Line a colander with butter muslin, fine cheesecloth, or a flour sack towel. You want to be able to drain the curds without having the curds fall into the bowl below.
Step 4: Curds and Whey
They say you will see the curds and whey separate. When it was at temp, my milk grew fluffy is the way I would put it. I did not stir the milk while it was heating. This would prevent the curds from forming. Just left it to heat on a medium low heat until the temp was reached. As soon as you reach the proper temp and the curds and whey separate, turn off the heat. Move the pot off the heat, cover and do not disturb for 10 minutes.
Step 5: Drain the Curds
I put the colander with the cheesecloth lining over a heat-resistant bowl to catch the whey. The whey is protein and can be used for other purposes but you will have to Google the various uses.
Carefully and gently pour the curds into the lined colander. It is very hot and the yellowish whey will pour first and then the white curds will drop into the bowl. Don't burn yourself.
You may have to set the colander over another bowl or pot to finish draining if the first bowl gets too full. I used a spoon to gently turn the curds to drain as much liquid as I could. Drain the curds for 15 minutes or until the curds have reached the consistency of wet mashed potatoes. Shown are pictures of the curds and whey.
Step 6: Cook the Pasta
Boil a pot of water and once boiling, drop 8oz of shell pasta into the water and boil following package directions.
Once done cooking, drain pasta in a colander and put aside.
Step 7: Put It All Together
In the pasta pot combine one cup of the ricotta cheese and 1/4 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese. Add some of the reserved pasta water a bit at a time to make a sauce to the consistency you desire. Add some nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and heat over medium heat stirring to combine all elements.
I heated some pre-cooked italian sausage and sliced into rounds and added that to the pot along with a large handful of fresh baby spinach. Stir to heat thoroughly until spinach is wilted.
Ladle into bowls and top with the remaining grated romano or parmesan cheese.
It is a light and tasty dinner. I thought it would be too rich but the ricotta is dry so it doesn't weigh the dish down.
Serve with a salad and crusty bread and it would serve 6 people.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.