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Guest Post by Madigan Naylor
copyright 2012 Art of Living,PrimaMedia,Inc/Maria Liberati
My friend recently returned from a semester studying in Italy. When we were catching up, I asked her what food she enjoyed most while in Italy, and she said the cheese. “But not sweets or gelato?” I asked. She replied, “Without a doubt, the cheeses.” She continued to list at least a dozen cheeses she had tried from her time abroad. One that she mentioned was ricotta cheese. She said this one was probably the best because it could be used in dessert as well as dishes with pasta or vegetables and many more. She declared she would cook with it more often back here at home. I know that I’ve had it before, but I don’t exactly remember it being one of my favorites, in fact I hardly ever use it when I cook my everyday food. This inspired me to find out a little more about it and try to incorporate this cheese that my friend swore by!
Ricotta is not a cheese but a creamy curd. The curd is literally cooked twice hence the name “ricotta,” re-cooked. The best ricotta is made with sheep’s milk. It is basically milk whey left over from the production of cheese! It sounds kind of gross, but it is absolutely delicious! Who knew left overs would be so delicious in so many different dishes! I remember my mother used to sprinkle some sugar on top of some ricotta cheese and eat it from a tub! With only a spoon! It tasted so sweet and fluffy though, not savory at all. It’s strange though, because I usually pair ricotta cheese with pasta dishes like lasagna or giant pasta shells. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I went to an Italian restaurant in England that I was served probably the best Italian dessert I’ve had ever since I can remember. They were simple ricotta cheese stuffed cannoli with smooth, creamy dark chocolate drizzled over the top. Perfection. The shell was so light and flaky that it nearly melted in my mouth, making the cheese even fluffier and softer. I can’t wait to try some new recipes with ricotta cheese in it and see what all of the hype is about!
Here’s a recipe from The Basic Art of Pasta:
Spaghetti Infuocati (Spaghetti on Fire)
(excerpted from The Basic Art of Pasta by Maria Liberati)
1 lb of spaghetti
8 ounces of ricotta (preferably fresh )
1 ½ tblsps of butter melted
¼ tsp of finely crushed pepper flakes
Salt to taste
Cook pasta till al dente. But while pasta is cooking- place in a bowl the ricotta. Mix with a fork till it is creamy. Then sprinkle on the red pepper flakes and the melted butter.
When pasta is cooked al dente, drain. Place the pasta in the bowl with the ricotta mix and toss. Serve immediately.
April 28th and 29th-Hope to see you at the Great Grapes Festival in Reston Virginia this weekend for my book signings and cooking demos!