Tag Archives: ricotta

Torta Pasqualina – Savoury Easter Cake

This savoury Easter cake, which is really more like a pie, hails from the Northern Italian region of Liguria.  It is traditionally served on Easter Monday, and once upon a time it used to be made using 33 sheets of ultra thin pastry, each layer representing a year that Jesus was alive.  These days most recipes make it with four, which is what I did (and if you really don’t want to make pastry, store bought will do).  I needed five bunches of silverbeet to get to one kilo of leaves, it will depend on how big your bunches are; the stalks can be used for stock or soup, they are tasty and often get discarded. A lot of eggs are required here, so it was lucky that the girls had had a prolific laying week. Like lots of old recipes, you’ll see variations on the theme – some combine the spinach and ricotta, as I did, and others do them as separate layers. There are also artichoke versions.

Pastry
600g Tipo 00 flour
350ml water
1 teaspoon salt
35ml olive oil

Place the flour in a bowl, add the salt, water and olive oil and mix gently with a fork until it comes together. Tip onto a floured surface and kneed until smooth. Divide the dough into four balls – two of 300g each and the other two approx. 170-180g each. Place on a tray, cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for one hour.

Filling
1kg silverbeet leaves
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 twigs marjoram
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
250g of well drained ricotta
7 eggs
1 egg extra, lightly beaten for brushing pastry

While the pastry is resting, make the filling. Blanch the silverbeet in boiling water for five minutes and drain. Squeeze out as much excess water as you can and chop finely.

Place the olive oil in a pan on medium heat and saute the onion with a pinch of salt until softened, add the chopped silverbeet and combine and cook for a couple more minutes, then remove from heat. Season. Add the marjoram, nutmeg, ricotta and parmesan and combine well. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Take one of the seven eggs, lightly beat, then add to the mixture and combine well. Set aside.

Assembly
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees fan forced. Grease a 26cm springform tin with butter or olive oil.

Take one of the 300g balls of dough, and roll out thinly on a floured surface so that it is big enough for the cake tin. Gently lift it into the tin and line. Repeat with the second 300g ball, so that you now have two layers in the base. Gently spoon the silverbeet mixture into the cake tin and smooth out. Then take a spoon (I used an icecream scoop) and make seven round impressions in the silverbeet mixture. Into each one crack one of the seven eggs. Season the eggs lightly.

tortapasqualina (1)tortapasqualina (2)tortapasqualina (3)

Now take a 180g ball of dough and roll out big enough to form a lid, and gently place on top of the cake tin. Repeat with the second ball. Trim the excess pastry around the edge of the cake tin, and then curl into a crust to seal (I probably made it a bit too thick, I would do it thinner next time by trimming the pastry a bit more). Take the extra beaten egg and using a pastry brush, brush over the pasty and season the top lightly. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes or until nice and golden. Remove and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

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Casarecce with asparagus and baked ricotta

With the arrival of Spring comes an abundance of Australian grown asparagus, rather than the wilted imported stuff we get a lot of the year.   Often I gently bake it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, but that evening I felt like throwing it in some pasta.  I chose casarecce, but any short pasta will work well.  The ricotta can be done a day ahead. Serves four.

asparaguscasarecce

Ingredients
250g fresh ricotta, well drained
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
3 bunches of asparagus, cut into 3cm length
500g casarecce, or pasta of your choice

Breadcrumb topping
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbps olive oil
Half a cup of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan
2 tbps finely graded lemon zest (optional, or to taste)

Making it
1. For the ricotta, add a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper and combine. Place in a mini cake tin or loaf pan sprayed with olive oil, and bake in a 200 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool in tin then remove and refrigerate until ready to use.

2. For the breadcrumb topping, heat the olive oil in a small pan, and gently fry the bread crumbs until golden and crunchy. Place in a bowl and allow to cool. Add the parsley, parmesan and lemon zest and combine.

3. Blanch the asparagus for a minute in a pot of boiling water, remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside. You can then use this water to cook your pasta

4. While the pasta is cooking, in a frypan, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and fry the asparagus for 3 or so minutes. Add the drained cooked pasta once read, crumble in the baked ricotta, season and drizzle with a little more olive oil if desired, and serve. Top with the desired amount of the breadcrumb mix.

Sweet ricotta fritters

Ricotta is one of my favourite dairy products – not just because it is delicious but because it is so versatile. You’ll find lots of my recipes here contain it, both sweet and savoury.  These gorgeous little fritters are courtesy of Tobie Puttock.  However he uses sultanas, which I have skipped, and I added a little brandy instead.  I used a mini ice cream scoop to make them consistent and easy to dispense, otherwise use a tablespoon measure.  Resist the urge to make them bigger as they won’t cook in the middle.   If you don’t overcrowd the pan, they actually flip themselves over when they puff up, pretty nifty.  Serve these delightful little treats warm.

ricottafritters (2)

Ingredients
400g fresh ricotta
3 eggs
5 tablespoons of caster sugar
Grated zest of one lemon
Pinch of bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon Brandy
200g plain flour
2 cups of oil for frying
Icing sugar for dustin

Making them
Drain the ricotta and place it in a bowl with the eggs. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and brandy and beat until combined. Then add the lemon zest, bicarbonate of soda, and flour and stir well until all combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes to an hour.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and the scoop dollops of the dough and carefully drop them into the oil. Cook until they are a nice golden brown, turning as needed, and drain on paper towels. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

ricottafritters (1)ricottafritters (3)

Cauliflower & ricotta fritters

Good old fashioned cauliflower started to make a bit of a come back in 2015, with kale slowly fading away.  Cauliflower started appearing on big name chefs restaurant menus, roasted whole, served in salads, purees.  Neil Perry gave it a blessing with this nice looking recipe in Good Food. Me, I decided it would work well in a fritter, hearty for the vegacquarian Marito – he loved them. Do try and buy fresh ricotta when you can, rather than the pre-packaged supermarket stuff – it makes such a difference to any recipe.

cauliflowerfritters

Ingredients
750g cauliflower florets
250g ricotta, well drained
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chives, finely chopped
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper for seasoning
oil for frying

Making them
1. Blanch the cauliflower in boiling water until tender. Drain and allow to cool, then process in a food processor until broken down but not completely smooth (you could also just mash with a fork or potato masher).
2. Place cauliflower in a bowl with ricotta, season well with salt and pepper and combine with a wooden spoon. Add the egg, herbs and parmesan and combine. Finally add the breadcrumbs and flour and combine.
3. Shape into patties. I used a large ice cream scoop to divide the mixture first before shaping so that the patties are consistent in size, and got about 18 patties. Refrigerate the patties for an hour or so.
4. Heat the oil in a fry pan, and fry the patties on medium heat for a few minutes each side until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Today’s Cake – Ricotta Cake

This recipe is based on the one in a beautiful cook book I bought recently called “Sharing Puglia”.  I changed it a little because, well, I can’t help myself but also I thought it had too much sugar, with the original recipe having 345g sugar for 500g ricotta, as well as candied fruit, which I’m not overly fond of.  I did slit the top as suggested but it still cracked so think I need a few more slits.  The liquor used is called Strega (which means ‘witch’ in Italian), one that Mamma Rosa uses in a lot of her sweets.  But you could probably also use brandy. Tip – I used Glad Go Between to roll out the dough – made it very easy.

Ingredients
Pastry
330g of 00 flour
220g caster sugar
200g butter, cubed
4 egg yolks

Filling
1kg ricotta
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbps Strega

Icing sugar, for dusting

Making it
1. Place your ricotta in a fine sieve and put on top of a bowl, cover and put in the fridge to drain

2. Meanwhile, make the pastry. Place the flour and butter in a food processer and pulse till it forms a crumb. Add the sugar and pulse, then the eggs and continue pulsing till it starts to come together. Tip onto a benchtop or board, form into a disc then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

3. Grease a 19cm springform cake tin with butter. Cut off about a third of the pastry and set aside. Roll out the large portion of pastry into a large circle big enough to line the cake tin; gently place into the tin and press gently against the sides, cutting off any excess. Roll out the extra piece to form a circle matching the size of the tin for the lid. Refrigerate for at least an hour or until ready to bakericottacake (1)

4. Take your ricotta, still in the sieve, out of the fridge and sit for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 170 fan forced. Remove the ricotta from the sieve and place in a clean, dry bowl. Combine ricotta and sugar using a whisk or electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and combine. Pour the mixture into your cake tin, cover with the pastry lid pressing around the rim to seal, and then using a sharp knife put some slits in the top. Bake for about an hour ; if it starts to brown too quickly cover with foil. Allow to cool in the tin. Once cool remove from tin, dust with icing sugar and servericottacake (2)ricottacake (3)ricottacake (4)ricottacake (5)

Baked ricotta stuffed eggplant rolls

The Marito bought home some huge eggplants the other day, and I knew they’d be perfect for this dish, which I’ve been making him for years.  Using my trusty mandolin with the 7mm insert and slicing lengthways, I got about 20 slices from two eggplant and fit 16 or so rolls in my baking dish. I chargrilled them on a grill plate on the stove top, you could also do them on the barbecue or a George Foreman.  The spinach is optional, but I like to throw some greens in where I can, and you could also use silverbeet or kale.  You can add more or less cheese to taste.

stuffedeggplant2

Ingredients
16 slices chargrilled eggplant
500g ricotta, well drained
100g grated parmesan
1 egg, lightly beaten
50g baby spinach, coarsely chopped
500ml plain tomato pasta sauce
100-150g mozzarella, grated or thinly sliced
salt and pepper
basil to garnish

Making it
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
2. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, spinach, parmesan and season with salt and pepper
3. Lay out the eggplant slices, place a heaped tablespoon of the ricotta mixture on each slice, and roll one by one. Place the rolls in a baking dish – here they are almost ready to go –stuffedeggplant
4. Top with the sauce, then the mozzarella, and bake for about 30 minutes. Garnish with basil and serve with a salad or green vegetables of your choice

Today’s cake – fig jam and ricotta torta

There are lots of nice figs around, so when I saw this recipe in Gourmet Traveller I was keen to give it a try.  The recipe called for a 26cm cake tin, but once I’d made the batter I made a judgement call and went for a 23cm as I wanted a thicker, higher cake rather than a thinner, flatter one. I also think you could probably do another fig or two to get a more substantial layer of the jam.

figricottatorta

Ingredients
Fig Jam
500g fresh figs, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 5 large figs)
75g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
Grated rind and juice of half a lemon

Batter
300g plain flour
150g almond meal
1/2tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
210g unsalted butter, softened and room temperature
3 eggs

300g ricotta
Icing sugar, for dusting

Making it
1. First make the fig jam. Place ingredients in a small pot over medium heat until thick (about 20 minutes). Once ready set aside for an hour or until cool
2. While jam is cooling, place ricotta in a fine meshed sieve over a bowl and allow any excess liquid to drain. Then beat with a whisk until smooth.
3. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C fan forced, and line springform cake tin with baking paper. Place flour, almond meal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and process. Add eggs and process till batter comes together.
4. Place half the batter into the tin and press up the sides, about half way up. Top with ricotta, then fig jam, then cover with remaining batter.
5. Bake for about an hour – an hour and a quarter, should be a deep golden; if it becomes too dark and not cooked cover with foil. Remove from oven and leave in tin for 5 minutes before putting on a wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Today’s cake – Amalfi Pear and Ricotta cake

amalfi cake 2

Pear and ricotta cake is something you will find in many of the bakeries and pasticcerie along the gorgeous Amalfi Coast.  It was first made famous by Sal di Riso (his bakery is in Minori) and over the last few decades there have been various versions.  Some make it with more of a ‘biscuit’, others with a sponge.  This version is based on a recipe by Katie Caldesi.

For the sponge
100g     hazelnut meal
50g       plain flour
100g     caster sugar
75g       unsalted butter soften at room temperature
4            egg whites
Icing sugar, for dusting

For the filling
3            pears, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
75ml     water
1 tsp     vanilla bean paste
125g     golden caster sugar*
250g     ricotta, drained
100g     double cream
1 tbsp   pear brandy (optional)

*golden caster sugar is an unrefined sugar you’ll find in specialty food stores. I also used it recently in an orange & semolina cake

Making it
1. To make the pears, cook the pears in the water, together with the vanilla and 75 g of the sugar in a saucepan until soft, for 15–20 minutes (depending on the ripeness of the pears). This is best done with a circle of baking parchment pressed down on the pears to trap in the steam. When the pears are done, strain them through a sieve resting over a bowl to collect the juices and set aside and allow to cool.

2. Meanwhile, grease two 19 cm round tins with butter and line the bottoms with baking paper. Pre-heat oven to 180C fan forced. Place the hazelnut, flour, caster sugar and butter in a bowl and beat until a sandy consistency. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and then fold them into the nut mixture. Pour into the prepared tins and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto wire racks and removing baking paper

3. To make the filling, whisk together the remaining golden caster sugar, ricotta and cream in a bowl until smooth and thick. Add the pears and brandy and combine. Place one hazelnut sponge on a board and spoon the filling over. Lay the other sponge on top and push down so that the filling oozes out a little. Sift the icing sugar over the top and transfer to a serving dish or cake stand. Serve in slices with the syrup from the pears if desired

amalfi cake

The hunt for Sydney’s best cannoli – part II

After sharing my post on Sydney’s best cannoli to an “Italians in Sydney” group, there was a bit of an outcry that I didn’t include Mezzapica.  It was not intentional, I just forgot about them (my brother-in-law too shook his head in disbelief).  Which is a bit odd, considering that at the two hundred or so Italian weddings I went to at the Mediterranean House and Festival House growing up, everyone got their wedding cake and other sweets from Mezzapica.  And we also used to buy cakes, cannoli and biscuits from there for family occasions.  But somewhere along the way my mother became a devotee of Blue Star, and this became the default cannoli location.  My first test included Blue Star, Marineve, Tamborrino and Dolcetti.  It was time for round two.

So one sunny morning, off I went to Leicchardt to Mezzapica.    I also recently tried some great cannoli at a friend’s birthday party, and she told me they were from Cavalicious, so I decided to stop in there on the way home, and a little further up the road at newcomer Mercato e Cucina.   Once again, traditional ricotta flavour had to be the benchmark.

cannoli2

And yes, the masses were right.  The Mezzapica cannoli were fantastic, crunchy shell, creamy not-too-sweet ricotta.  But I have to say, Cavalicious, while a slightly different flavour to its shell, were excellent too, will definitely be buying both of these again. Mercato e Cucina’s version was probably my least preferred of all seven (gosh I am glad I did this in two parts, imagine eating seven at once) – loved the pistachio topping, but the filling and the casing, while good, just weren’t to the standard of all the others.

A good bit of time after this, I tried the cannoli from Dolcettini.  I’ve been wanting to get there for an age, but I don’t find myself in Dural often as its quite a hike.  But wow, I think the drive is worth it! Crunchy case, gorgeous filling, an all round excellent package. Right up there!

dolcettini

You’ve got to admit, regardless of your cannoli preference, that it is great to be this spoilt for choice.

Mezzapica Cakes, 130 Norton Street Leichhardt, ph (02) 9569 8387
http://www.mezzapica.com.au

Cavalicious Patisserie Cafe, 213 Victoria Road, Gladesville, ph (02) 9879 7378
http://www.cavalicious.com.au

Mercato e Cucina, 297 Victoria Road, Gladesville, ph (02) 9817 9457
http://www.mercatoecucina.com.au

Dolcettini Patisserie, 829 Old Northern Road, Dural ph (02) 9653 9610
http://www.dolcettini.com.au

Mezzapica on Urbanspoon

Cavalicious Patisserie Cafe on Urbanspoon

The hunt for Sydney’s best cannoli – part I

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When I did my write up on Sydney’s best cake, cannoli – a traditional Sicilian sweet – should have featured. But my favourite cannoli were from Sulfaro in Haberfield, which unfortunately closed down (Update 2015: I hear Sulfaro has now re-opened but it is different owners and not the original cannoli!). So I thought I’d compare those from a few other Italian pasticcerie around town. Cannoli are a fried pastry filled with either ricotta, a vanilla crème patissiere or a chocolate custard. Traditionally the ricotta ones (my favourite and usually the only ones I will eat, whereas the husband goes for vanilla and the kids the chocolate) will contain chopped nuts or candied peel, and there’s also often a touch of alcohol. For a mere couple of dollars, these are a great little treat. Most places will make mini and larger size ones, and most don’t fill the casings until you order them, to prevent the pastry from going soggy. They are best eaten as soon as you can after the casings are filled with your desired flavour.

On my little trip to the Inner West, where I go regularly to the Italian delicatessans, I tried those from Blue Star, Marineve, Dolcetti, and Tamborrino. Blue Star has been around for as long as I can remember. The wave of Italian migrants to Australia in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, among them my parents, would eventually change the face of dining in Australia. But back then, they struggled to find the food and products they were used to eating at home.

Blue Star was one of the early ones, bringing a piece of the familiar to a little corner in Five Dock; their “continental cake” was a standard order in our family growing up – it was there for every birthday, christening, communion, anniversary and any other special occasion. When we became teenagers we moved away from it, wanting to try things that were modern and more “trendy”. But recently we’ve gone back to the continental cake, and it fills us with a wave of childhood nostalgia. Marineve is very similar to Blue Star, the sweet Italian nonna behind the counter, and beautiful traditional sweets in the counters are just waiting to be eaten (I also recommend Blue Star’s conchiglie biscuits). They are old school, you won’t find a website, their customers are those they’ve had for 30 years, and their children and grandchildren.Tamborrino and Dolcetti are two of the ‘newer’ ones, though still with plenty of longevity – they serve a mixture of the traditional and the new.

So onto the taste test

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The verdict? Well, frankly, they were all pretty damn good. I think they could be put into two groups in terms of style – Blue Star and Marineve in one, Dolcetti and Tamborrino in the other.

Blue Star and Marineve were more similar, and more traditional in style with a thicker ricotta filling, and chopped nuts, though Blue Star’s filling was a little sweeter. And Dolcetti and Tamborrino were similar, with the ricotta filling being thinner, probably combined with cream. Tamborrino had no nuts or peel for texture, but it did have slightly more alcohol giving it a lovely flavour. Tamborrino also had the thinnest pastry casing and Blue Star the thickest. The pastry of all of them had a good crunch, as you’d want and hope with good cannoli. So I think it depends on how you like your filling and if you like texture. Out of Blue Star and Marineve I prefer Marineve, and out of Tamborrino and Dolcetti I prefer Tamborrino. My husband and I also compared the vanilla fillings and our preference on that one was Blue Star (I also adore Blue Star’s conchiglie biscuits). But hey, you won’t go too far wrong with any of these places, and many of their other sweets.

See part II here

Blue Star Cakes, 267 Lyons Road, Russell Lea, Ph (02) 9713 9940
Marineve Pasticceria, 71 Ramsay Road, Five Dock, Ph (02) 9712 2293
Dolcetti Pasticceria, 294 Great North Road, Wareemba Ph (02) 9713 8880
Pasticceria Tamborrino, 75 Great North Road, Five Dock, Ph (02) 9712 1461

Blue Star Cakes on Urbanspoon

Marineve Pasticceria on Urbanspoon

Dolcetti Pasticceria on Urbanspoon