Posts tagged ‘Ricotta’

November 16, 2012

Stuffed Shells | pâtes farcies à la ricotta

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Lately, I’ve been feeling like I just don’t have enough time to breathe.  Even if I do find a spare moment, I spend it agonizing about the trillions of other things that I ought to be doing.  Consequentially, I get nothing done, for I’ve spent all of that time agonizing.  Vicious circle.  In an attempt to save myself from a lack of cooking nervous breakdown, I decided that I would cook a little dinner for two.  Uninspired, I biked to the supermarket in the pouring rain to get some materials anyway.  Sometimes I go to French supermarkets to oogle the 3 aisles strictly devoted to butter, yogurt and cream.  As I was strolling through those glorious aisles, I stumbled upon the “discount” section (the French have a hilarious way of pronouncing it -discooont.)  A medium sized shell shaped cheese vessel caught my eye, and I was suddenly inspired.  I would do what my Mamoon does best and shove 4 types of cheese combined (heeaaaven) into the inside of my favorite food of all time (carbohydrates = pasta) and cover it with even more cheese.  Only after having made a garlicky and onion-y sauce to dump all over that pasta mixture like a warm blanket in winter.  Done deal. I was sold.  I bought all of the remaining large shell pasta bags on the shelf because goodness me, who knows the next time I will be able to find those here.

This recipe comes from the book that was and still remains king in my household, “Eat This, It’ll Make You Feel Better” by Dom Deluise.  That jolly faced and pleasantly plump man posing with eggplants on the inside of the book (no joke) taught me how to do the cooking that was usually improvised on Sundays.  Stuffed shells are usually made for a special event in my family, but I decided that just having the time to stuff shells full of cheese was special enough of an event.  And en plus, the odor of garlic and onions wafting through the kitchen is enough to make me weak in the knees, imaging myself back in New York, even though my feet may be standing in Strasboug, France.

Je vous présente….

Ma Ziti’s Stuffed Shells

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(adapted from Dom Deluise)

serves 6 hungry, hungry hippos people.

What You’ll Need:

Filling:

  •  2 eggs
  • 1 lb (500 g) ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 (200 g) pound mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tbsp parsley
  • few leaves of basil, chopped
  • dash of pepper
  • grated cheese for topping

Sauce:

  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • pinch of sugar
  • Italian seasoning
  • 24 giant ziti shells

What now?

  1. Fry garlic and onions in a pot until fragrant.  Add diced tomatoes, pinch of sugar and Italian seasonings, heat thoroughly and then set aside.  That’s your quick sauce.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses, parsley, basil and pepper.
  3. Cook giant shells in lots of boiling water until al dente.  Don’t overcook it though! They are easier to fill when they are a little stiff.  Drain, rinse with cold water to prevent sticking.
  4. Stuff each shell with a few tablespoons of the cheese mixture.
  5. Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with about 1/2 inch of sauce.  Arrange stuffed shells side by side in the sauce.  Cover with remaining sauce and a light dusting of cheese.
  6. Bake covered in a 350 f / 180 c oven for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

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August 6, 2012

Grandma Edith’s Ricotta Cheesecake | Cheesecake à la ricotta

I am an Italian American which means that I grew up feasting on all things delicious (and saying things like ‘rigoth’ instead of ricotta and ‘ganol’ instead of cannoli).  As a child though, I didn’t fully appreciate the allure of this cake.  Every Easter, I poo-pooed it and grabbed some Cadberry eggs instead, satiating my sophomoric taste buds.  But there is something funny about being across an entire ocean that makes me rethink all of those old recipes that I grew up knowing but turning my nose up at out of sheer ignorance.  When spending Easter without your family, for example, all that you can think about making is your Grandma’s cheesecake, even though you can’t seem to remember exactly how it tastes.  In just creating the cake with your own hands, it brings forth an entire culture, familial history and series of memories that are essential on all days, but on holidays in particular.

But it’s no such holiday right now and I am simply fulfilling a request for an Italian cheesecake.  Using ricotta instead of cream cheese really changes the texture a whole lot.  Don’t poo-poo this cake like I did a very long time ago.  Make it just once and it will be your go-to cheesecake for a while!

Usually this produces an enormous amount of batter.  Since I was cooking for 8 (on two separate occasions, I know, cheating my way out of baking two separate desserts! How dare I!),  I thought I would make single serving portions out of wax paper.  This could be a very fruitful idea, in theory, but be sure to press your crust INTO place to prevent overflowing cheese rivers that create your very first  kitchen “debacle.” I did manage to salvage four cheesecakes (which I believe to be kitchen karma telling me I should’ve never lump-summed two desserts into one…)

Grandma Edith’s Ricotta Cheesecake

What you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ lb (600g) ricotta
  • 1 cup (250 g) of sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup (32 g) all-purpose flour
  • ½  tsp vanilla
  • 4 egg whites
  • ¼ cup (60 g) heavy cream, whipped
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups graham crackers (or speculoos cookies), crushed

Now what?

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Beat drained ricotta until smooth and gradually add ¾ cups sugar and egg yolks, beating after each addition.
  3. Beat in flour, lemon zest and vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with remaining sugar until stiff and then combine with whipped cream.  Gently fold cream mixture into ricotta mixture.
  5. Turn into 12-inch spring form pan (or mini vessels, or mini muffin tins, or mini ramekins or whatever you’d like) which has been well buttered and sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs.
  6. Bake 10 minutes at 425 and then lower oven temperature to 350 and bake for one hour or until golden brown and wobbly to the touch.
  7. Turn off heat and allow to cool in the oven with the door closed.
  8. Cool in fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.

(the vessels)

(the cream)

(the very minis)

(the salvaged)

(the explosion)

(the massacre)

August 4, 2012

Very Vegetarian Lasagna | Lasagnes végétariennes

My roommate Alexis told me that he wanted to cook for us the other night.  I said, sure, no problem, thinking that it would be nice to come home to a hot meal every once in a while.  When the hour came for dinner, I arrived at our apartment ready to feast on whatever he had in store for me.  I entered the kitchen and saw a pile of frozen spinach sitting on a plate, an oven that was not preheated and an unconcerned Alexis opening a bottle of red wine.  I glanced at the clock and read 9pm.  He told me that he wanted to wait for the spinach to defrost.  I looked around for a few more clues and when I found a box of lasagna noodles perched on the windowsill, I knew that dinner wouldn’t be before midnight (or the next day, if we waited for the spinach to defrost on its own.) But the French eat late, I told myself.  But I had been hungry since 5pm.  He informed me that we would be eating spinach, crème fraiche and sun vegetable lasagna (rough translation.) My appetite now whet, I pounced into action in order to help this roommate-chef of mine so that soon that lasagna could be in our bellies.  While there is a copious amount of crème fraiche and ricotta in this recipe, the addition of a ratatouille sort of vegetable combination makes you feel slightly reasonable.  After it was finally cooked, he took his bottle of red, and me my bottle of white, and we settled on the couch (in front of the television) in true Franco-American style.

Very Vegetarian Lasagna

What you’ll need:

  • 450 gr fresh spinach
  • 1 eggplant, cut in circles
  • 1 zucchini, cut in circles
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • flat parsley
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 3 pinches oregano
  • 6 leaves fresh basil
  • 300 gr ricotta
  • 15 cl crème fraiche
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 lasagna noodles (no pre-cooking necessary)
  • 90 gr parmesan
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Now what?

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 f.
  2. Wash the spinach twice in cold water and then blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Plunge them immediately in a large bowl of cold water so that they keep their green color.  Drain them and remove as much water as possible with the help of paper towel.
  3. Heat the shallot in a pan with a little olive oil for about 5 minutes until they are fragrant and clear.
  4. Simultaneously beat your eggs, ¾ ricotta and ¾ of the crème fraiche.  Add the shallots, spinach and the parmesan.  Salt, pepper and then put it off to the side.
  5. In the meanwhile, fry eggplant circles until slightly golden in a pan.  Once finished, place on the side on plate lined with paper towel to drain excess oil.
  6. Place all remaining vegetables in a pan with a little extra olive oil.  Add eggplant, 2 tbsp of parsley (fresh or dried), thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, and cover it with a lid.  Let it simmer on low heat for approximately 15 minutes.  Once it is a nice mixture with a ratatouille like texture, add cut up basil and let it cook for 5 more minutes.
  7. Butter or oil a baking dish to the size of your liking (we used 26×20 cm).  Place three lasagna noodles on the bottom, followed by a layer of vegetables.  Add three more lasagna noodles and then spread (thickly) a layer of the spinach mixture.  Repeat this process until you are out of all of your ingredients or until you are out of dish space! Be sure to finish with lasagna noodles.
  8. Finally, combine the remaining ricotta, crème fraiche and some parmesan cheese to get a very cheesy top layer to cover your lasagna mountain.
  9. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the lasagna begins to turn golden brown.  Serve immediately with some extra parmesan cheese, as if there just wasn’t enough already…

 

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