I’ve just made my first batch of cheese and am feeling quite chuffed with myself. An invitation to try out a Mad Millie kit saw me produce what I think was a particularly good ricotta. Later in the post I’m going to tell you how you can win a kit so you can try it out for yourself.
In the meantime, let me tell you about my experience. It really is dead easy. Millie takes all the hassle out of making delicious ricotta (as well as plenty of other great products). She packages it all up nicely in a bright purple box, complete with easy to follow recipes and all the equipment you need. You will have to supply the milk though.
The Italian kit comes with accessories to make a few different cheeses, including mascarpone, mozzarella, ricotta and traditional Italian-style ricotta.
After looking through the recipes in the kit, I figured ricotta would be the easiest way to gently begin my cheesemaking career. I also thought it would be great with some banana bread and honey that I had on hand.
So off I went and bought two litres of milk as required. Then, I poured it into the biggest saucepan I had. The recipe advises to disinfect all the equipment you’re using. Normally I’d recommend this but my pot was clean, I had only just taken the equipment from the box, and I was planning to use the ricotta almost immediately. So I didn’t bother disinfecting.
I didn’t run into any problems as a result but I will definitely disinfect the equipment next time I use it. (On a side note, I also had a lot of trouble opening the cap on the disinfecting agent that comes in the pack, and it didn’t take me long to give up!)
With my pot filled with dairy goodness, I popped in the thermometer and then… waited. For quite a while actually. The recipe says to continue stirring the milk as you wait for it to reach 95 degrees Celsius. This took a lot longer than I expected. I would recommend that you have everything ready before turning the stove on – the mould for the cheese, as well as the cup of citric acid and water mix, so you have it ready to stir in.
Oh, and you also have to add some of the cheese salt that comes with the pack, before you heat the milk. Cheese salt is special salt that isn’t iodised, so as to not disrupt the chemicals in the milk.
After stirring for about 10 minutes, being careful your milk mixture does not catch or burn, it should be nearing the right temperature. Take it off the heat once it reaches 95 degrees Celsius, and throw in the citric acid mixture.
After stirring your heart out, this is where it all pays off. When the mixture starts curdling, everything happens very quickly. It sounds unappetising, but it was actually incredibly gratifying. It was great seeing it come together before my eyes!
Once it’s all lumpy, let it cool. Take a load off, you’ve done all the hard work now. Boil the jug and relax.
Thirty minutes later – scoop the clumps from the saucepan and put them in the mould provided. Squish them all in, as much as you can possibly fit. I had a bit left over, so I used a sieve to dry it off as much as possible, then I put it in another container.
Now, while I did enjoy a big dollop of the gorgeous ricotta on my banana bread, I was on a roll. A family dinner that night prompted me to rethink my ricotta motives. All it took was a 5 minute browse of my all time favourite – Pinterest (obsessed!) – and I had all the inspiration I needed.
I came up with this very simple recipe using a jar of tomato pasta sauce, a can of diced tomatoes and basil from our garden. If you have time, homemade tomato sauce is always worth the effort.
For the filling, mix all the ingredients together and stuff into the biggest pre-cooked pasta shells or tubes you can find – look at your local deli, they’re more likely to have pasta of this kind. Once filled, throw them in the dish on top of the sauce.
RICOTTA STUFFED PASTA WITH TOMATO SAUCE AND BASIL
Jar of store-bought tomato sauce (feel free to replace with homemade – in fact I encourage you)
Can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Large pasta shells or tubes
For the filling:
1 tablespoon cottage cheese
2 cups homemade ricotta*
1 cup grated cheese of your choice (such as parmesan, manchego or pecorino)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees C. Put tomato sauce and diced tomatoes in a large baking dish.
Mix ingredients together for filling. Cook pasta until al dente.
Once the pasta has cooled, stuff with ricotta filling.
Arrange the ricotta-filled pasta in the baking dish on top of the tomato mixture.
Top with grated cheese and fresh basil.
Bake for 15 minutes or until brown on top.
Serve with crusty bread and good quality olive oil.
*Refrigerate ricotta overnight before using.
* Mad Millie’s Beginnerʼs Italian Kit ($39.90) makes mozzarella, ricotta, ricotta salata and mascarpone. Other products in the Mad Millie range include Artisanʼs One Day Cheese Kit, Fresh Cheese Complete Kit, Hard Cheese Kit, Specialty Cheese Kit, Probiotic Yoghurt Kit, and sausage and preserving kits. More information: www.madmillie.com.au
Win!!! Click here to win a Mad Millie Beginnerʼs Italian Kit.