A few weeks ago I made my first batch of ricotta cheese! It was so much easier than I thought it would be. The recipe is from Fine Cooking. Thanks to the use of whole milk and cream it is rich and luscious. While I am sure it would take your lasagna to the next level, I wanted to use it in a way that allowed it to really be showcased, not masked behind tomato sauce and heavy meats. These toasts were the perfect way to use it.
Many ideas I came across for ricotta toasts were sweet with ingredients like honey, figs, strawberries and grapes. I wanted something that would qualify as dinner, so I decided on roasted asparagus with lemon and thyme and tomato and basil. This will definitely be something I’ll make again this summer, it’s light but still satisfying. I can also see adapting this to serve as an appetizer or as part of a brunch. I’m helping host a baby shower in a couple months, and I think these would be perfect.
To make the toasts I took slices of hearty bread
Brushed them with olive oil (butter is also great)
And grilled them (a panini press or grill with do, as will broiling them in the oven.)
Top with a tablespoon or 2 of the ricotta.
Layer on some roasted asparagus.
Sprinkle with fresh thyme and lemon zest, and maybe a bit of salt.
Slice and serve.
I also made some with slices of fresh tomato, chopped fresh basil and some sea salt. I will never tire of that combination. And it’s perfect for summer when fresh basil and ripe tomatoes are in abundance.
Do you have any great toppings for ricotta toasts? I’d love to hear what you’ve tried!
Fold cheesecloth to make 3 or 4 layers, wet and then squeeze the excess liquid out. Line a colander with the cheesecloth and set in a clean sink.
Put the milk and cream in a large pot. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and slowly warm the milk and cream over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s 185°F, about 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat, stir in the salt, and then slowly pour the lemon juice over the surface of the milk. Once all of the lemon juice has been added, stir gently for 1 to 2 minutes to encourage curds to form.
Gently ladle the curds into the prepared colander. Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the curds to loosely cover. Drain until it reaches your desired consistency, 30 minutes for a soft ricotta and up to 24 hours for a very firm, dry, dense ricotta. 30 minutes to an hour created the consistency I liked for the toasts. Be sure to refrigerate if draining the ricotta for more than a couple of hours. Transfer the drained ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
One day I am going to be a great meal planner. At this current time however I am not so great at it. Every now and then I plan a week of meals and I only have to take one trip to the grocery store. But then there are weeks like last one where I find myself on the couch at 5pm on Friday evening not sure of what we are going to eat for dinner. I loaded the kids up in the car after browsing through my Test Kitchen cookbook and got what I needed for this quick one skillet dinner. It was ready by 7pm, it was a huge hit and a recipe that I will definitely be making again.
In this skillet lasagna you have all the goodness of lasagna without all the work of layering and dirtying several dishes. The recipe calls for broken lasagna noodles, but you could use penne or ziti if that’s what you have around. I used Italian turkey sausage, but a mixture of ground beef and pork is what is called for in the original recipe. I added a few ounces of goat cheese to the ricotta because I don’t think that there is a thing on this earth that couldn’t use some goat cheese goodness. I layered some mozzarella slices on top of the finished dish and broiled it for a few minutes. I think when you serve lasagna there should be strings of cheese stretching from pan to plate, so this ensures that will happen. Top it all off with some fresh chopped basil and you have a super delicious and satisfying dinner that is ready in less than an hour. I realize it’s no 30-minute meal, but it sure does take less time than a proper lasagna!
Serve this with lots of good bread and a green salad for a complete meal, and one that will make everyone very happy.
8 ounces of lasagna noodles, broken into 2 inch pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan + more for serving
8 ounces part-skim ricotta
3 ounces goat choose
8-10 slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Pour the tomatoes into a quart measuring cup and fill with water to make 4 cups. Set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt.
Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add in the turkey and cook, breaking the meat up into pieces, until meat is cooked through and no longer pink.
Pour in the tomatoes and tomato sauce and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Add in the noodles and stir to combine. Press the noodles down into the sauce so that they are covered and then cover the skillet. Bring the sauce to a simmer and then reduce heat to medium low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a small bowl stir the ricotta with the goat cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.
Preheat your broiler.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Parmesan. Use a large spoon to dot the top of the skillet with the ricotta mixture, then lay the mozzarella slices on top.
Place the skillet under the broiler until the cheese begins to brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the basil.
The last meal I made from Martha Stewart Everyday Food was just ok, so I was a little apprehensive about this one. It sounded like it had to be delicious, though. Zucchini and fresh corn tossed with ricotta cheese, pasta and fresh basil. It was a nice, light dinner served warm, but an even tastier lunch the following day right from the fridge. This is a good summer pasta.
I changed some of the cooking methods. The recipe calls for grilled zucchini left over from another meal, which is a great way to use leftovers, so use extra veggies if you have them on hand. It also says to boil the corn with the pasta. I just chopped the zucchini and sauteed it with the corn. Basil and dill are the herbs in the recipe, but I just used basil. I meant to add some fresh parsley, but forgot about it until my plate was almost clean. I added some chopped grilled chicken Ben had made the night before. I might serve this along side grilled chicken next time instead of mixing it in, at least the first night we eat it. I think they would look good next to each other. And then the chicken would have pretty grill marks and not look as pale and sad as it does in this picture.
The corn is wonderfully sweet and crunchy. The basil is spicy and one of my personal favorite herbs for summertime. The ricotta is not heavy or overwhelming, it just adds a light creamy coating to everything. The only thing I found to be missing was salt. I salted the pasta, salted the veggies and salted the sauce, but still I wanted more. Now that I think about it, a nice squeeze of lemon juice might have done the trick. Acid is important…at least that’s what they say on Top Chef. So taste as you go along and definitely taste after mixing everything up to adjust as you see fit and let me know if you try lemon juice.
Here are some other changes. I used bowtie pasta (and a little penne to make 3/4 pound) but I think you could easily get by with 1/2 pound of pasta. Just throw in another zucchini or two and another ear of corn. You can use fat free ricotta, but low fat might give you more of a creamy and substantial feel. Grill the zucchini and the corn if you can. While I loved the way the corn tasted I couldn’t stop thinking about how much better it would be with slightly charred smoky corn. Grill it on the cob, then cut it off. If you grill the zucchini, use a grill basket or cut the zucchini into long thick strips to grill it, then cut it into proper sized pieces after it cools a bit.
Does anyone have any great tricks for cutting corn from the cob? I always make a ridiculous mess and throw bits of corn all over my kitchen. Please advise.
Basil Ricotta Pasta with Corn and Zucchini
From Everyday Food
1/2-3/4 pound short pasta, such as campanelle
1 cup reserved pasta water
salt and pepper
1 cup ricotta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
4-5 small zucchini, sliced and then quartered
1 3/4 cups corn kernels (from 2-3 ears)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn, plus more for serving
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken (optional)
In a large skillet heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add zucchini and corn and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes or until zucchini is slightly softened but not squishy. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain.
In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup pasta water, ricotta, and Parmesan. Add pasta mixture, zucchini, and basil, and toss to combine. Add more pasta water if necessary to create a light sauce that coats pasta. Season with salt and pepper and top with more basil and Parmesan.