Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Ricotta Extravaganza

I had a package of Ricotta that was just screaming at me in the fridge, so I made lasagna. It turned out fantastic. I still had some left over, so I also made a Ricotta Pound Cake. The pound cake is something else. It is really good fresh but turns amazing overnight as the crumb gets even heavier.

adapted from my mother, the TJ's box and probably Jamie Hixon
No Cook Lasagna Noodles (I used Trader Joes, but also love Barilla)
1 package sliced mozzarella cheese
1 package sliced provolone cheese
1 c Pecorino Romano cheese (aka Locatelli)

For the red sauce:
1 med. onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, chop finely or press
6 links sweet italian sausage
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 T basil
2 t oregano
2 bay leaves

In a large pan, saute onion and green pepper until soft in EVOO over medium heat. Remove sausage from casings and break up. Add to onions and peppers and cook until no longer pink. Add garlic and cook until fragrant but not brown. Add diced tomatoes. Cook until juice is almost gone. Add sauce and spices.

For the bechamel:
2 T butter
1/4 c flour
2 c milk
1 c ricotta
fresh ground pepper
1/8 t nutmeg

In a sauce pan, melt butter. Constantly stirring, add flour and brown slightly. Add milk bit by bit constantly stirring to avoid lumps. Stir in ricotta. Add pepper to taste and nutmeg. Remove from heat.

Assembly: (Use either a 9x13 or two 8x8 pans)
Layer 1
-Make a small layer of red sauce on the bottom.
-Add a layer of noodles.
-Add another layer of red sauce.
-Dollop white sauce sparingly.
-Layer mozzarella.
Layer 2
-Make a layer of red sauce.
-Add a layer of noodles.
-Make a layer of red sauce.
-Sprinkle Pecorino Romano liberally.
-Dollop white sauce.
-Layer provolone.
Layer 3
-Make a layer of red sauce.
-Add a layer of noodles.
-Make a layer or red sauce.
-Top with mozzarella.

Bake at 350 F for about an hour or until cheese is bubbly, and your house smells amazing.

Ricotta Pound Cake


Adapted from Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen

3/4 cup cake flour

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 stick unsalted butter

3/4 cup ricotta (I used part skim but drained off any whey)

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 vanilla bean

1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Position a rack in the center.

Butter & flour a loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

Cream together butter, ricotta, and sugar on medium speed until smooth and light, about 2 minutes.

Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides of the bowl after each addition.

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds with blunt side of a small knife, then beat them into batter along with vanilla extract.

On low speed, beat in dry ingredients to combine them, scrape down sides of the bowl, and beat batter for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Gently drop the pan on the on the counter gently a few times to remove air bubbles.

Bake cake for 15 minutes, then turn the pan 375 degrees to ensure even browning. Lower the temperature to 325 and continue baking until the cake springs back lightly when touched, the sides have begun to pull away from the pan, and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25 to 35 minutes more.

Allow cake to cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully invert it onto the rack to cool completely.

The crumb on the ricotta was nice and heavy, and the fresh vanilla is heavenly! Overall, I definitely say that I'm going to make both again.