One of the labs in this online science cooking class I registered involved making homemade ricotta. I don’t cook very much with ricotta, and I wasn’t entirely convinced I should be making it so I decided to first look for a recipe to motivate my cheese making. Since the Ottolenghi eggplant was a success I decided to check out some of his ricotta recipes in the Guardian, and that’s when I came across this ricotta tart. The first time I attempted to make the ricotta, my yield was not that high, so I ended up making something else with it. The resulting whey was still milky, so I decided that one problem might be that the milk I had purchased for it was too homogenized and the milk proteins were harder to curdle. Thankfully, I was able to find non-homogenized milk at the store and when I gave that a try, I finally had a clear whey! Success! Of course, this milk is more expensive, but still cheaper than buying your own ricotta. As an added bonus, this homemade ricotta will only contain milk, salt, and no preservatives!
Ingredients (serves 4 with a side salad):
- 1 pastry crust (from here or store bought)
- 250 g of ricotta (1 cup) (1 L milk, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 Tb white vinegar)
- 4 oz feta cheese
- 1 Tb butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped, split in half
- 2 eggs
- 1 yolk
- 15 g basil leaves, chopped
- salt and pepper
- 100 g sun-dried tomatoes + some of the oil
To make the ricotta, first arrange some cheesecloth (2-4 single layers) over a strainer and place it over a bowl. Heat the milk and salt to 198 F.
Remove milk from heat, add the vinegar, and then stir a few times slowly. Let it sit without stirring. You want the milk to coagulate, but too much stirring can prevent that according to some recipes. I found that a few stirs sufficed.
Let it cool. Lab suggests to let it cool to 97 F using an ice bath, some recipes suggests to let it cool at room temperature for times ranging from 5 – 30 minutes. I used an ice bath the first time, didn’t use one the second time to prevent disturbing the pot, and it worked just fine. When cool, strain the curds.
This allows for the whey and vinegar to get removed. After most of the liquid is gone, fold the cheesecloth over the curds and let it strain for about half an hour. Refrigerate the ricotta until ready to use.
For the tart, start by preheating the oven to 350 F. Roll out the dough and place it in a pie dish. You can either just cut a circle on the bottom, or I chose to leave ~ 1/2 inch edge. Pierce with a fork and par-bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool.
In the meantime, preheat butter over low-medium heat. Add onion and half the garlic and cook until softened, but haven’t started to brown (15 – 20 minutes). Let cool.
Using an electric mixer whisk the eggs and the yolk. Fold in the ricotta, feta, cooked onions, and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the ricotta mix over the tart shell.
Bake tart for 30 – 45 minutes or until set. Meanwhile, process/chop the sun-dried tomatoes, 2- 3 Tb of their oil, and the remaining garlic.
Spread the tomato paste over the tart when it comes out of the oven. Let cool for a bit, slice and serve warm with a side salad and a nice glass of wine!
Overall, I felt very accomplished making my own ricotta and I thought it tasted better than store-bought, but maybe I was subjective after the work I put in :-) The tart definitely made for a delicious vegetarian dinner!