Pasta Perfection

 
 
When cooking pasta, there a few guidelines you should follow each time you plan and prepare your meal to ensure the best results possible. Generally, you should first match the sauce to the pasta size and shape, although that is personal preference. For instance, I would choose a short, thicker pasta such as rigatoni, or a long pasta such as spaghetti or ziti for a heavy ragu` sauce, while a delicate creamy tomato sauce with baby shrimp would be ideal on angel hair pasta, or small shells. There are now many brands of dried pasta available, some good and others not so good, so I always choose a brand from Italy such as Barilla or de Cecco which are now widely available across North America. As for portion control, a general rule to remember is that you should use about 100 grams of dried pasta per person, 80 grams of fresh.

Now that you have chosen our sauce and pasta, and determined the quantity needed, it is time to start cooking. You should use a large pasta or stockpot that will hold 1 quart of water for every 100 grams of pasta used. Start with cold tap water as the hot water that has been sitting in the water heater loses it’s oxygen, leaving it flat. Bring the water to boil, then add about 1 teaspoon of salt per quart of water, or about 2 to 3 tablespoons for a large stockpot. Never add oil to your water as it makes the pasta slippery, preventing the sauce from adhering properly. Once the water is boiling rapidly, add the pasta and stir to prevent sticking. Follow package recommendations for cooking time, stirring every few minutes. Just before the suggested time is up, taste to determine if it is al dente. It should be cooked, but yet still firm to the teeth. Remember, the pasta will continue to cook a little after being removed from the heat. Never rinse the pasta after it has been cooked unless you are making a pasta salad as the starch left on the pasta after it cooks helps the sauce to adhere to it.

A good trick to remember is that before draining your pasta, take a small cup of the pasta water and set it aside. Then, once the sauce has been added to the pasta if it still seems a little dry, you can use the water to moisten it. Next you want to drain the pasta, but do not rinse unless you are planning to keep it at room temperature to be used in a salad, as the starch also helps the sauce adhere. Once it has been drained, return it to the pot over medium high heat with about one half of the sauce. Cook, stirring continuously for a minute or two. This is a trick used in restaurants, that both helps the sauce meld with the pasta, as well as ensure the dish will arrive at the table piping hot. Use the rest of the sauce on top of the pasta when serving. As a general rule when it comes to sauce, plan to use one to two tablespoons of a liquid sauce such as aglio olio, and at the most a quarter cup of a thicker sauce per person. The pasta should not be swimming in the sauce, nor should it be too dry. The sauce and pasta together should compliment each other and one should not stand out above the other.

As for grated cheese…..it really depends upon the sauce. Tomato, cream and meat-based sauces generally call for it while it is rarely offered for very spicy or fish-based sauces. If cheese is used though, it is served at the table, one or two teaspoons are sufficient, not a heavy dusting that overwhelms everything else so commonly seen here in North America.

Using these few hints will ensure that you too can prepare pasta to perfection!

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2011

 

 

46 Responses to “How To Make Ricotta Cheese At Home”

  1. 1
    Anna @ the shady pine — January 24, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

    This is genius! Not something I ever thought you could make at home and yet here it is! You deserve a congratulations on this one!

    [Reply]

    Anita Reply:

    Hi, I love the recipes Deborah shares and can’t tell you enough how much I enjoy cooking for my friends and family.
    In India Paneer is made in the same way. And I’ve rarely bought it, it’s so easy to make!

    [Reply]

  2. 2
    Terri Thomas — January 25, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

    I love tutorials as well as recipes and am happy to see one on ricotta. I can only imagine how superior it will be to the flavorless supermarket containers. The heavy cream for the dessert ricotta will be worth the extra calories! Thanks Deb!

    [Reply]

  3. 3
    Kim D — January 26, 2012 @ 12:39 am

    This is the best thing ever! I used “method two” tonight, and though it might still be a tad bit watery, I’m well pleased with the results. (I’ll also take your tip to strain it before using it, which will indeed help) I’m excited to try the other two methods. Thanks ever so much!

    [Reply]

    Deborah Reply:

    Kim, it really shouldn’t be watery when you are finished. I’d suggest letting the mixture sit once the acid has been added until large curds form, and then letting it drain a little longer until it is creamy & smooth.

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  4. 4
    Jonathan — January 26, 2012 @ 9:49 pm

    Can’t wait to try recipes, can I use lemon juice as my citric acid? Thankyou!

    [Reply]

    Deborah Reply:

    Yes you can.

    [Reply]

    Lincoln Reply:

    How much lemon juice do i use?

    [Reply]

    Deborah Reply:

    The article states if you are using lemon juice (citric acide) a teaspoon and a half will work.

    Antonio Reply:

    I have a similar recipe using 1 gallon milk and 2/3 cup of lemon juice from 3 medium lemons or so. I’m surprised to hear that so much less (1 1/2 tsp) will work!

  5. 5
    Kalvyn Evans — January 28, 2012 @ 3:21 am

    Do you remove the curds after they separate, and just strain the whey itself, or leave the curds in and strain the whole thing?

    [Reply]

    Deborah Reply:

    The curds are the cheese, so you can either scoop out the curds with a spoon into a strainer, or carefully pour the whole mixture through the strainer retaining the curds.

    [Reply]

  6. 6
    Michael — January 31, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

    Deborah,

    They are great recipes for Ricotta, Ive been making it for awhile now and seems to be the best three ways I have found to make it . And when used for my homemade Ravioli’s,,,mmmm Mangia!!!

    Michael

    [Reply]

  7. 7
    Susan Lauciello — February 26, 2012 @ 9:48 pm

    Deborah,
    I tried method #2. and have approximately only 2 cups of ricotta. While The flavor is wonderful, I expected almost twice that amount.
    Did I do something wrong that the yield is so low?
    And what or how would I use the whey left over? Seems like there is so much of it.

    I really enjoy your site and have tried many recipes. All with great success.
    Thank you for your great inspiration.

    [Reply]

    Deborah Reply:

    The yield will depend on how much you drain the ricotta. You can use the liquid in soups, or oatmeal.

    [Reply]

  8. 8
    Kiersten — February 29, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

    Hello, I used method 1, brought the mixture up to 195F, it never separated, only made foam. Once I decided it was not going to do anything else, I pulled it and let it sit for 15 min. Still nothing. What did I do wrong?

    [Reply]

    Deborah Reply:

    Kiersten,

    Sorry to hear you had problems. All three methods have always worked fine for me. Just make sure you do to use ultra pasteurized milk which is not the best for cheese making.

    [Reply]

    Jessie Reply:

    I have made ricotta using the citric acid (lemon juice) method probably a dozen times. Once, I also had the same problem Kiersten described. I have no explanation as to why the curds and whey never separated, because I do it the same way every time. Give it another shot, Kiersten – it was most likely just a fluke thing and nothing you did wrong. Don’t let it stop you from enjoying this delicious homemade cheese!

    [Reply]

  9. 9
    Sandra — April 10, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

    I made this and it turned out well and was so easy. The only thing I would think about changing is adding a little more salt. Do you think this would change the outcome in other ways besides taste?

    [Reply]

  10. 10
    Teri — June 4, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

    This morning I tried Method 2, and the ricotta turned out beautifully! Now, I’m making plans for it! Thank you so much for sharing!

    [Reply]

  11. 11
    Jade Green — August 19, 2012 @ 8:05 pm

    Well I was excited that I wasn’t going to have to go to the store before dinner, and then I realized I have no milk:( I think I will give this a try rather than buying some though

    [Reply]

  12. 12
    mushi — October 22, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

    Deborah, great post. I make these versions of ricotta all the time. I mainly use the one that adds white vinegar, and for Passover, when we don’t use vinegar, I use lemon juice. I love to play with different ideas, adding freah herbs, and even making my own version of feta. The salata is wonderful to use kind of like a parmesan, grated. Sometimes I mix non fat milk with the whole milk for a lighter version, and even all non fat milk. The yield is much less but still delicious. For really luxurious desserts, I add cream, talk about decadent! So easy, and so delicious, once you have homemade, you won’t want to buy the grocery store brands. (My trick for not loosing too much in the cheesecloth: I purchased a few brand new, all white cotton tee shirts, wash them in hot, hot, water a number of times, and the cut them in lengths to use to drain the ricotta, also, if you let the ricotta cool a bit longer it is really easy to scoop out, or roll off the cotton sheets. I also freeze a lot of it so I always have some on hand.)

    [Reply]

    Deborah Reply:

    Mushi, thanks for the t-shirt trick. I may just try it!

    [Reply]

    mushi Reply:

    You are very welcome. After I use them I just wash them really well in nothing but hot, hot water, and then hang to dry. Unlike cheese cloth it seems to really hold the curds and allows the whey to escape, not to mention that cheesecloth can get pretty expensive if you use a lot of it. Let me know if you try the tee shirts?

    [Reply]

    Deborah Reply:

    Will do!

  13. 13
    Nancy — October 26, 2012 @ 5:23 pm

    Hello! I’ve a question re the buttermilk method. What type of buttermilk should be used? The “cultured” type sold here in the US which isn’t really buttermilk at all, or real buttermilk…the liquid left over from making butter? Thank you!

    [Reply]

  14. 14
    Sandhya — November 14, 2012 @ 11:35 pm

    Is this not same as the Indian Paneer? I have only heard of Ricotta but never seen or eaten. This is exactly how we make paneer in India.

    [Reply]

  15. 15
    rouenmom1 — November 26, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

    what do you do with all the leftover liquid, the milk byproduct of the cheesemaking? Does anyone know it’s nutritional content or caloric value?

    [Reply]

    Deborah Reply:

    It is very nutritious. You can use it in soups or hot cereals.

    [Reply]

  16. 16
    Maria — January 6, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

    In my Italian family we eat the homemade ricotta like soup. We scoop it into a soup bowl with some of the whey, add chunks of dry rustic bread and enjoy on a COOOOOOLD winter’s day. We save the leftover whey in jars & heat it in mugs whenever we want a hot drink free of fat & caffeine. However, this makes me gassy so I always take Beano or GasX just before indulging.

    [Reply]

  17. 17
    yeldarb1983 — January 31, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

    using method #2 (or simply boiling, which i learned a while back also works, and if you dont add any salt, it comes out a lot like sour cream!), at what point would you reccommend adding fresh or dried herbs to flavor the cheese?

    just curious

    [Reply]

    yeldarb1983 Reply:

    oh, and i forgot, since i currently dont have any actual cheesecloth, i use coffee filters, which seem to work pretty well. (maybe too well? dunno)

    also, i normally filter in the ‘fridge for various reasons, will that affect this recipe any?

    [Reply]

    Deborah Reply:

    Yes, do not steain too much or the ricotta will get dry and grainy.

    [Reply]

    Deborah Reply:

    I add herbs, or seasonings once I have the ricotta at the right consistency.

    [Reply]

  18. 18
    Paul Kopsick — February 7, 2013 @ 10:08 am

    The whey, or creamy yellow liquid that separates from the curds can be used in any recipe calling for sour milk or buttermilk.

    Can you reuse the buttermilkwhey to make more ricotta?

    [Reply]

    Deborah Reply:

    Paul, yes the whey can be used in soups, oatmeal etc. and is quite healthy. It cannot be used to make more ricotta as the fat has already been removed.

    [Reply]

  19. 19
    Canadian Budget Binder — March 7, 2013 @ 7:32 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I had no idea ricotta was this easy to make. A friend of mine shared your page on my Facebook Groups page tonight in my “What’s For Dinner” post. Cheers! Mr.CBB

    [Reply]

  20. 20
    maria mcsteen — March 7, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

    Hi Debra,
    What is a non-reactive pan?
    I have stainless steel pans, will it work?
    thank you
    Maria

    [Reply]

    Deborah Reply:

    Ceramic or glass are non-reactive. Metal pans are reactive.

    [Reply]

  21. 21
    Sgt. B — March 25, 2013 @ 10:14 pm

    Hi guy’s
    just wanted to add that I add the cooled whey to my chicken feed each time I make cheese
    the chickens seem to love it
    keep up the great recipes

    [Reply]

  22. 22
    D — September 10, 2013 @ 8:47 am

    I really enjoy your blog, and how generous you are with sharing information.

    Where I’m originally from, Italians have had a great impact on our local cuisine and much of our diet includes Italian food. I find that I truly miss it and it’s difficult to acquire the basic ingredients necessary for it where I live now.

    Your blog allows me to put those ingredients together myself. I just wanted to say your blog is wonderful and has been truly helpful. I can’t wait to read more.

    [Reply]

  23. 23
    Barbara — February 25, 2014 @ 2:37 pm

    The whey also makes a great vehicle for marinating! Think goat milk
    Ricotta and chicken pizza, marinate chicken pieces in the whey…fabulous!!

    [Reply]

  24. 24
    Meghan Barrett — April 12, 2014 @ 12:49 am

    I have seen a similar recipe using half a gallon of whole milk, half a gallon of half and half, and one quart of buttermilk. Add salt and sugar and it makes the perfect base for cannoli filling!!!

    [Reply]

    Deborah Reply:

    Sounds great Meghan!

    [Reply]

  25. 25
    Kathleen Conner — May 27, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

    What an awesome article! Found it while trying to troubleshoot my first batch. Thanks very much for this.

    [Reply]

  26. 26
    Anna Engdahl — September 1, 2014 @ 11:27 am

    I use the whey in making bread and biscuits, and some other baked goods.

    [Reply]

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