But as my tastes have evolved and I've grown as a cook, I've learned to appreciate ricotta as an ingredient or an accompaniment for other foods. Fresh ricotta (especially when Lisa makes some) is great with a little honey drizzled over it and some fresh fruit--berries or figs. Even jam and ricotta is great on a Ritz cracker. Of course, as an ingredient for stuffed shells or lasagna it's indispensable. I even like when it's stuffed into huge olives. And I use it often to enrich sauces... besciamella, marinara, and even to make a creamy-cheesy pesto.
Recently I used ricotta in a stuffed French toast breakfast. That really works! But, my all time favorite way to enjoy ricotta is when Lisa makes her Italian Cheesecake (almond flavored) around the holidays. I won't go so far as saying that I loved the powerfully stinky, burn your eyes out Ricotta Forte we tasted in Puglia, although Lucas seemed to go for it. Interesting that now that he's nearing puberty, his feet are starting to smell just like Ricotta Forte... (Lucas just read this and thinks I'm being mean.)
As I mentioned before, ricotta means cooked twice. It is made from either sheep, cow, goat or water buffalo milk whey that's been left over after making another cheese. The "twice cooked" comes into the picture because the whey is heated almost to a boil either after fermenting to make it more acidic--or like Lisa does--by adding lemon juice for the acidity. This technique allows a second curd to develop from the whey that was leftover. To form a cheese, the curds are collected and shaped by hanging in a cheesecloth or by placing into special cheese baskets which allow the liquids to drain while leaving the curds behind. If you add a bit more salt and allow it to dry for much longer, you might even make ricotta salata, a salty, firm cheese similar to Greek feta.
You know, now that I think about it, Lisa hasn't made any for about two months of more... nudge, nudge... get the hint, Sweetie?
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