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.

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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.