Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ricotta Juice and Ravioli

My dad's friend brings us fresh homemade (by a small Italian store) ricotta every couple of weeks. One week, he brought the ricotta with extra "ricotta juice" and made a soup out of it with some ditalini and the reserved pasta water.

Over the weekend, I decided to try making homemade ricotta. It wasn't difficult at all, nor extremely time consuming (about an hour or so, but you could be multitasking as long as you remain close by). It wasn't cheaper though, nor better, than the ricotta that we get every once in a while. Maybe the only difference was the use of hormone-free milk (but I couldn't get a large enough hormone-free buttermilk, so I suppose that defeated that goal.)

My favorite thing to do with ricotta is to mix in some honey and eat it for breakfast, but since I made around 3 cups or so of ricotta, I needed another way to use it before it went bad. I saved the whey from when I made it, or as Franco likes to call it, the "ricotta juice", and considered making the ricotta soup. But then I came up with an idea that could actually serve as dinner.

I knew I wanted a pasta dish of some sort, and I wanted it to incorporate the ricotta, and possibly the whey, but I wasn't sure exactly what. I considered making pasta and tossing it with some ricotta, basil, and zucchini (I bought squash at the farmer's market over the weekend); making a fresh tasting lasagna with ricotta and pesto, or ravioli. The ravioli appealed the most to me. I've never made ravioli, but was feeling like some after finding an old issue of Food & Wine that had pasta sheets with crab between them and called it ravioli. For some reason, after seeing it, I wanted ravioli.
But I didn't want something thick and doughy. I wanted the light summer flavors to stand out, so that meant that I was not going to be able to make the dough. A rolling pin would not stand up to the job of making the pasta thin enough. Remembering Deb's post on pierogi, I decided on wonton wrappers and set out to make my ravioli. (Well, I did go to the store with my awesome new grocery basket to buy some milk and whole-wheat penne as a back-up, but that isn't really relevant.)

I also now realized that by changing the presentation of this dish, it is incredibly simple to make. Maybe I will submit some recipes to Bon Appetit (once I have the required number), because this is simple, and tasty, enough to make again.

Ravioli in Ricotta Juice
serves 5 (as a light meal, or more realistically, 2-4)
10 Basil Ravioli (recipe below)
3 cups whey or vegetable broth
2 medium tomatoes
3 medium summer squash (such as pattypan, yellow squash, zucchini, etc.)

In a large saucepan, heat whey or broth over medium heat. Dice tomatoes and add to the pot. Either thinly slice or dice squash, depending on if you want to add them to the whey or leave them raw. (I like raw squash, but some people don't. Mom would have preferred me cooking them.)

In a bowl, portion raw zucchini (unless cooking) and ravioli. Divide whey/broth among bowls and serve.

Basil Ravioli

makes 10-12 ravioli
1 cup basil leaves
1 cup (6 ounces) ricotta cheese, divided
3 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt*
20-24 wonton wrappers

In a food processor, combine basil, 1/2 cup ricotta, garlic, and salt. Process until smooth. Remove blade or transfer mixture to a bowl. Add remaining ricotta cheese and gently mix in with a fork.

In a small bowl, pour some water to use to wet fingers. Lay out a wonton wrapper, and wet along the edges with a finger. Put a tablespoon of the cheese mixture in the center. Wet the edges of a second wrapper and place on top. Squeeze out air and with damp fingers seal the edges together tightly.
Repeat with remaining mixture and wrappers.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add ravioli in a single layer so they don't stick to each other and cook about 3 minutes, or until wrappers are cooked and soft.

*My ricotta didn't have any salt in it, and the filling didn't seem to need anymore salt than that, so salting to taste would probably be a good idea, and tasting it because how salty the cheese is would also impact that.

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