ricottella

I used to hate ricotta. As a child I would visit my great grandmother in Highland Park, NJ for Sunday lunch. Every week, I would begrudgingly eat her homemade ravioli beneath a copy of Da Vinci’s Last Supper and more crucifixes than I care to remember. Her ravioli di ricotta, by all accounts, were some of the New Jersey’s best (this is the only thing my parents have ever agreed upon, so it must be true). I couldn’t stomach the consistency of ricotta at the time so I refused to eat them, excavating the cheese from inside each raviolo, shoving it to the side of my plate and eating the remaining pasta with its accompanying red sauce. If I had only known then what I know now! But there is no use dwelling on these squandered culinary experiences of my youth, so I have managed to push forward and have spent the past 20 years making up for all the ricotta I missed by snubbing my great grandmother’s ravioli. In fact, I rarely turn it down no matter what form it is in: straight, in a cannolo or cassata, as raviolo filling, salata, scante, the list goes on….

ricotta_2

The last month in particular has been a ricotta free-for-all. It reached its peak during a trip to Puglia where, over the course of a 1 week period, I must have eaten it at every meal. I even visited 3 cheese producers (2 caseifici and a farm). I had never seen it made before and it was so interesting to watch the process. It is produced using the residue from cow’s milk cheeses (in some parts of Italy like Sicily and Lazio, it is made from sheep’s milk). The leftover liquid is heated and the whey that floats to the top is skimmed of and spooned into plastic containers where it compacts and sets.

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At Caseificio Pugliese in Corato near Bari, two men work for hours making thousands of containers of ricotta from the byproduct of cow’s milk cheeses. It is then sent to local delis, supermarkets and restaurants.

caseificio

Perhaps the most beautiful ricotta moment that I witnessed was during a visit to a farm near Ostuni. My friend and I spent a good hour looking for it in the middle of the country on unmarked and unpaved roads. When we finally found it, the farmer’s grandson came outside and sat near us on the patio. He brought his afternoon snack: a dixie cup full of fresh ricotta, still hot, which he proceeded to eat as though it were a container of yogurt. We bought 2 cups for a euro each and as we drove off, leaving the remote farm in the distance, I couldn’t help but ponder how my life would have been different if I had loved great grandma’s ravioli.

fattoria

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Food & Wine · Puglia

20 Comments:


  • A lovely post and joyful celebration of ricotta.


  • Spread thickly on bread with jam…


  • A beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this. I have also visited cheesemakers in Italy and found it to be a profound experience. Thanks for reminding me. I agree with spreading it on bread with jam. But also think that honey and ricotta are one of the most blessed combinations in all the world.

    cheers!


  • A beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this. I have also visited cheesemakers in Italy and found it to be a profound experience. Thanks for reminding me. I agree with spreading it on bread with jam. But also think that honey and ricotta are one of the most blessed combinations in all the world.

    cheers!


  • I have fond childhood memories of going to a local salumeria in Hoboken, NJ, with my parents and getting fresh, store-made ricotta in a tin container. The warm ricotta would be piled up over the top and then covered with a square of wax paper that would be fastened with a rubber band. We would return the tin the following week for a refill; and so on, and so on…

    I have had a life-long love affair with ricotta…and mozzarella too. I think I could live on just these two foods for the rest of my life.


  • My gastronomic downfall! Hmm,,, there’s some fresh stuff in the frig right now and it’s snack time! :)

  • Katie

    buon appetito!


  • How did I forget this!

    My friend Michael’s family is from Puglia. Although his parents have lived here for over 40 years, old habits (and recipes) die hard. His mother is renown for making “ricotta forte.” She takes either store-bought or home-made ricotta, puts it in the attic during the hot summer months, and there you have it…ricotta forte! (Michael says it smells to high heaven)
    I’ve never had it, but this is one form of ricotta I’m not rushing to try!

  • Katie

    omg you must try ricotta scante. just put a little dab on your orecchiette al pomodoro and mix it up. it is soooo good. just dont think about it fermenting in the attic!


  • Katie–I live between Rome and Naples and just found your website. Am enjoying it thoroughly! I am taking a travel-writing course but find myself writing mostly about food. I’m working on an article about sheep milk ricotta, including the shepherd, his dog and the flock. Great fun. My blog is neglected but nonetheless, I’ve linked to you. You’re an inspiration!

  • Katie

    Thanks, Diane! In bocca al lupo:)


  • great story about great grand mom’s ravioli. you got to see the finished product but on my Sunday visits, i got to see the whole process. sheets of pasta were stretched across the kitchen table covered with a HUGE floured wooden “cutting” board. these sheets were not produced by a machine. they were hand rolled paper thin with a solid rolling pin(solid pin rolling is an art that i will explain to you in person). circles were cut out of the pasta with tin cans, filled with the ricotta mixture, folded in half, then forked shut. these raviolis were produced by the hundreds, floured and brought to my grandmother’s bedroom and placed on her bed spread to “cure” for a short time. the bedroom also had cords spanning the room where strands of spaghetti hung to dry. once the process was complete, the ravioli was cooked and tossed with a simple tomato sauce and served in a large bowl. the whole place smelled like parmesan cheese, garlic and wine. thanx for jarring that memory!


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  • Can I please have your life? now?

  • Katie

    yeah sure:)


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