pasta with ricotta and marinated tomatoes

This is one of my absolute favorite summer dinners. I’ve shared the recipe before, but recently made a few improvements and thought I’d share it again. It is quick, light and you don’t need to turn on the oven—beneficial pretty much everywhere except San Francisco. It also features one of my favorite summer ingredients—tomatoes.

Like all simple dishes, the better the ingredients you put into the dish the better it will turn out. I recommend using a decent fresh ricotta over your typical dairy section fare and cherry tomatoes because they are more flavorful and less watery than other varieties.

Pasta with Ricotta and Marinated Tomatoes
1 basket cherry tomatoes, halved
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 T olive oil
2 T each of fresh parsley, basil or chives, chopped (use any combination of herbs you have on hand)
1/2 T fresh thyme, removed from the sprig
1 lb pasta (shells or tubes are prefered)
1 clove garlic, grated
2 T olive oil
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper

Slice the tomatoes and put them in a medium bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. The longer you let this sit and marinate, the better.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Just before you drain the pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Add the olive oil and grated garlic clove. Stir. Add the ricotta and parmesan. Stir just to combine. Plate a mound of pasta and top with the tomato-herb mixture. Enjoy!



ricotta stuffed squash blossoms

Jordan came home on Saturday night to me happily bustling away in the kitchen and the smell of BBQ in the air. It seemed, however, that he was worried. He had noticed a small bag of squash blossoms on the counter and foresaw disaster—a tremendously unhappy Emily with the blood of a failed experiment in delicate cuisine on her hands. Well, I am happy to report (and I’m sure Jordan is extremely relieved to report) that our first foray into squash blossom cookery was a success!

We’ve had squash blossoms before, but always at restaurants with professionals taking charge. When I saw them at Bi-Rite Market I knew I had to have them, despite not knowing how to cook them. The window of opportunity to enjoy squash blossoms is quite short after all and I wanted to take advantage of it. Thankfully, Chez Panisse had my back and I found a recipe for stuffed squash blossoms. Earlier at Bi-Rite I had the foresight to buy some sheep’s milk ricotta cheese and everything else I had on hand.

Ricotta and Herb Stuffed Squash Blossoms 
6 – 8 squash blossoms
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 T chopped herbs (I used chives, thyme and a tiny bit of sage)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 lemon, zested
salt, pepper
1 egg
2 T milk
1 cup Maseca or all-purpose flour
oil for frying (safflower, sunflower or peanut oil)

In a small bowl, mix the cheese, herbs and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Gently stuff the squash blossoms with a tablespoon or so of filling. Twist the tops shut. Place on a plate and stick in the fridge for 5 – 10 minutes to firm up.

Heat an inch or two of oil in a cast iron skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat. Beat the egg and milk together.  Dunk the blossoms in the milk mixture and then in the flour. Fry 3 minutes per side until just golden. You don’t want to over cook them or risk cheese leaks. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with coarse salt and serve hot.



linguini with fresh ricotta, leeks and mushrooms

What do you do when you’ve got several cups of fresh, homemade ricotta? Make a delightful pasta! This dish is quick, delicious and reheats amazing well (for pasta, at least).

Linguini with Fresh Ricotta, Leeks and Mushrooms

2 leeks, sliced and rinsed of their grit
1 cup mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (We used button mushrooms and shitakes)
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
2 T cream
salt and pepper
1/2 lb linguini or other dry pasta
a few generous dollops of fresh ricotta per serving

Preheat an over to 350 degrees. Put on a pot of water to boil.

Slice the mushrooms and arrange them into a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake the mushrooms until they are shriveled, about 15 minutes. This makes them extra flavorful.

Meanwhile, gently saute the leeks in the butter and oil over medium low heat. After the leeks are soft, add the cream. Add the pasta to the boiling water. Reduce the leek and cream mixture just slightly. Add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. After the pasta is al dente, add it to the sauce. Toss to coat. Plate the sauced pasta and top with a few generous dollops of ricotta. Not gorgeous, but delicious!


Queso Chronicles Recipes

queso chronicles: homemade ricotta

You all might remember my trials and tribulations in the mozzarella realm. Well, after some deliberation, I decided my faint heart could not handle another mozzarella failure and that I should try to make an easier cheese. Ricotta is probably the easiest cheese to make (according to cheesemakers on the internet) and recently I found a new recipe on a great blog called I Made That. I followed her directions and ended up with a perfect ricotta. No tears or wasted milk!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

6 cups whole milk
2 cups cultured buttermilk
1 1/2 cups cream
1 T salt

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Over medium heat, heat until curds begin to form, stirring gently. After the curds form, turn off the heat and let it sit for 30 minutes. Put two layers of cheesecloth in a strainer. Strain cheese until it has reached your desired consistency. I let it sit for about an hour. Transfer cheese into a tupper and refrigerate. When you pull your cheese out the next day, there may be some residual whey. Just pour that off and continue eating and cooking with your delicious fresh cheese!

Making ricotta from scratch is not any cheaper than buying it at the grocery store, but it is much more flavorful. I’ve found that many store-bought ricottas taste like nothing and often have a grainy texture. The milk flavor is very prominent in this homemade cheese and the texture is smooth and creamy. Yum!