Pasta and Cheese Making and 3 Cheese Baked Spaghetti with Spinach

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I just love to make cheese, and fresh pasta. Today my friend Traci (another "Foodie Mommy") and I got together to make homemade ricotta. I make cheese often, usually just mozzarella and ricotta. I have never tried to make hard cheese, but plan to at some point. Mozzarella and ricotta are impossibly easy to make. It also saves you a ton of money if you can make these cheeses at home. I usually buy my cheese making supplies at They are REALLY inexpensive and also provide a lot of good recipes and advice for the beginning cheese maker. I highly recommend their mozzarella kit.

Here is the recipe for whole milk ricotta:

1 gallon whole milk (it is REALLY important to use whole milk - make sure the milk is not ultra-pasturized).
2 tsp. citric acid
2 tsp. cheese salt (kosher salt will work in a pinch)

You will also need ;

a large non-reactive pot (not aluminum for example and big enough to easily hold a gallon of milk)
a quick read cooking thermometer
cheese cloth
a strainer or sieve

Pour the milk into the large pot and add the citric acid and the cheese salt. Heat over medium heat until the milk reaches 195 degrees F. Stir only to avoid scorching. Once the milk reaches 195 degrees, remove from the heat and let set for 10 minutes until the curds separate. Line a strainer or sieve with cheese cloth. Carefully ladle curds (or pour) into the cheese cloth. Gather the cheese cloth into a bag and hang and let drain for 30-45 minutes. I usually hang the bag from the faucet in my kitchen sink. Once the cheese
is drained, open bag and you will have ricotta! Carefully remove your ricotta from the cheese cloth and store in a glass container and cover with plastic wrap. Your cheese will keep in the fridge for about a week. I use the ricotta in pasta recipes and sometimes I will add in some fresh herbs and serve it with crackers for an easy hors d'oeuvre. I also like to add honey and nuts to it. Yummy!

Also, don't dispose of the whey! I use it in breads, pancakes, muffins, in fact, it is great in any baked goods in place of the liquid ingredient (i.e. water, milk) and it is a GREAT substitute for buttermilk!

Fresh pasta is also super easy to make, and it stores really well in your freezer. In the winter, I spend a day and make ravioli that I freeze and use for the rest of the year. I also make fresh spaghetti, fettucini, and lasagna noodles. Pasta is a great way to get your kids involved in the kitchen. My 1 year old son Daniel LOVES turning the crank on the pasta roller (see picture below)! Here is my recipe, you can easily double this if you want more pasta.

1 cup all purpose flour (or you can use wheat flour if you want a whole grain pasta)
1 cup semolina flour
3 eggs
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. to 1 cup water (you may not need water at all depending on the size of your eggs)

You can mix by hand or you can use your food processor or Kitchen Aid. I use my Kitchen Aid so I will give instructions for that. Add the flour to the bowl of the Kitchen Aid. Make a well in the flour. Add the eggs, and the olive oil. Mix using the dough hook until dough starts to form, if the dough is too dry and not coming together, add water 1 tbsp. at a time until the dough comes together. Don't add too much water or the dough will become sticky. Mix using the dough hook until the dough is smooth and begins to climb up on the sides of the bowl or onto the dough hook. Remove the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and supple. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Roll out dough with a pasta roller or rolling pin to desired thickness. Cut into your favorite noodle or stuff with favorite filling to make ravioli. Cook pasta until tender but not mushy about 5 minutes. Drain immediately and toss with sauce or use in a pasta recipe.

You can also dry the pasta by hanging it on a pasta dryer and then freeze it in freezer ziplock bags.

Tonight I made whole wheat spaghetti to go along with the ricotta and made a really delicious baked spaghetti. This recipe can easily be made with store bought ingredients, I just happened to be in the mood to make pasta and cheese today.

1 lb spaghetti
2 cups mozzarella shredded
1 cup grated parmesan
3/4 cup ricotta
3 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
28 oz (3 1/2 cups) spaghetti sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook spaghetti. Place in a greased 13X9 inch baking dish. Add the cooked spaghetti. Add 1 cup mozzarella, 3/4 cup parmesan, 3/4 cup ricotta, eggs, and garlic powder. Mix well. Top with spaghetti sauce. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with remaining mozarella and parmesan. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with a green salad and warm bread.

I hope you enjoy these recipes! Until next time Foodie Mommies and Daddies, happy cooking!


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