Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Straying from the Weekly Menu


  Sadly my husband was not overly fond of Sunday's dinner. I decided yesterday that instead of taking a chance on one of this week's recipes I would make something he was sure to love. I've had some large pasta shells in my pantry begging to be used, and have been dying to try a recipe for making your own ricotta cheese, so I thought I'd throw something together.
  Ricotta Cheese-making Take One:
One of my fellow Shelf Reliance Consultants posted a recipe on her blog for Ricotta Cheese from THRIVE Instant Milk. I don't have the milk at the moment but was eager to try the recipe so I used the powdered milk I had from before I was introduced to THRIVE with terrible results (it didn't form curds resulting in the bulk of the ingredients going down the drain instead of staying in the strainer where it belonged). Now I can't blame everything on the milk, because I missed something in the recipe and added the vinegar at the wrong time (so, it's probably mostly my fault), but I wasn't about to take another chance on it and waste more of my expensive powdered milk only to have it fail again. My only problem-I now had everything ready for stuffed shells without the ricotta cheese. (I do have to say that I will be attempting this recipe again once my THRIVE Instant Milk arrives.)
  Ricotta Cheese-making Take Two:
I did a web search for "Ricotta Cheese" and found a recipe by a trusted baker and author, David Lebovitz. I had all the ingredients on hand so I went to work on it again. The results? See for yourself.
This shot without the flash shows the curds.
This shot with the flash shows how white and creamy it turned out.

  To the ricotta I added an egg yolk, cooked Italian sausage, spinach and onions (which I previously sauteed), Parmesan and Romano cheeses and coarse salt and fresh ground pepper. I stuffed the shells and placed them in a baking dish to which I had spread a layer of homemade marinara; topped them with more marinara and some mozzarella cheese. I covered the dish with foil and popped it into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, removed the foil, turned the oven up to 450 and baked 10 minutes more.
  This is the marinara recipe I used as a guide. However, I used dried spices, pureed my tomatoes until they were small chunks, and added a bay leaf, fresh flat leaf parsley and a dash of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. I brought everything to a boil, then turned it down to simmer for about 2 hours.
  I am happy to say, even though we ended up eating at 6:30 instead of our typical 5:30 because of the ricotta mishap, the meal was fantastic and my husband helped himself to seconds...and thirds!

So, this photo doesn't really do it justice. But hey, I'm a cook not a photographer!

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