Tonight, as the pasta water was coming to a boil, I sauteed some bacon (if you're not into bacon, a sliced onion will do at this point). When cooked through, I added about two cups of sliced brussels sprouts, tossed with some salt and pepper and a splash of white wine(which you can switch for some chicken or veggie broth if you're cooking for kids). I then covered the pan for a few minutes to cook the sprouts through. If, at this point you haven't added bacon, might I suggest about a tablespoon of anchovy paste? It adds some great saltiness, and rather than tasting fishy, I promise that it just creates a sort of smoky richness. I promise.
By this time, the pasta was bubbling away. With just four minutes left on the penne, I added about a cup of low fat ricotta to the pan, along with about a quarter cup of milk and a quarter cup of pasta water to help thin out the sauce. Taste check. I added some red pepper flakes for fun. When the pasta is done, drain and toss with the creamy veggie goodness. Add some additional parmesean, and voila!
BTW - if you have a gallon of milk, some citric acid or lemon juice, some cheese cloth and a strainer you can make your own ricotta! Here's the recipe cut and pasted from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. If you don't have citric acid lying around, you can use lemon juice as suggested here.
Ricotta from Whole Milk
- Use whole milk .. The fresher the better
- Add 2 tsp of citric acid per gallon of liquid (dissolved in 1 cup cool water). Add 1/2 of this Citric Acid solution to the milk (save the rest of the citric acid). Stir briskly for 5-10 seconds.
- Add 1 tsp salt
- Heat the milk slowly on low to med stirring well to prevent scorching
- At 165-170F watch for small flakes forming in the milk and the separation of small curds.
If after a few minutes you do not see the flakes forming, add more of the Citric acid until they form (do this in small 1 Tbsp increments to avoid over acid milk).
- Continue heating to 190-195F then turn the heat off
- As the curds rise, use a perforated ladle to gently move them from the sides to the center of the pot. These clumps of curd will begin to consolidate floating on top of the liquid.
Let the curds rest for 10-15 min.
*** This is very important because this is the point where the final Ricotta quality is assured
- Ladle the curds gently into draining forms (No cheese cloth should be needed if you were patient in the previous step). Let the curds drain for 15 min up to several hours.
For a fresh light ricotta, drain it for a short while (until the free whey drainage slows) and chill to below 50F. For a rich, dense and buttery texture allow it to drain for an extended period of time (several hours). before chilling overnight
Move to a refrigerator or cold room. Consume within 10 days
Let me know how it works if you give it a try!