A shepherd used to live on my family’s farm in Tuscany and herd his sheep in our pasteur. My grandfather, a man ahead of the times, never charged the shepherd a fee, he practiced bio dynamic farming 30 years before it became a common practice for may vineyards. The shepherd would come early on Sunday mornings… I remember waking up to the clinging sound of bells and the “Beee – Baaa” lament of the lamb, always getting in the herd and crying scared for mama sheep, dumb lamb! The sound would get stronger and stronger, as the animals would make their way to the fence around our house; my brother and I would run in the garden to pet them, talk to the shepherd and play a bit with his dog. Almost every Sunday we were gifted a bucket full of fresh ricotta, and it was just magnificent.
Ricotta is a whey cheese and its name literally means “re-cooked”; the process is not complicated but it is a bit too lengthy to be put in motion if you are trying to be spontaneous about your menu or if you wish to whip a fresh snack on the spot.
Cagliata is just the result of the first step of making ricotta: whole milk is acidified so to separate whey from proteins and obtain curd. The whey then has to sit at room temperature long enough for a fermentation process to begin, after that happens it is heated a second time to obtain more curd, which is in fact ricotta.
My grandmother made cagliata since I can remember. She would serve it warm with a drizzle of honey or on a toasted slice of bread seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper. I enjoy using this as an appetizer when I entertain, it is extremely easy and guests always enjoy seeing the process.
Prep Time: 5 mins / Cook Time: 10 mins / Yields: 1 cup
- 4 cups whole milk
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice, plus the zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 baguette, sliced and toasted
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for serving
1Add three layers cheesecloth over a colander.
2Add the milk to a large heavy pot and place over medium high heat. Stir in the lemon juice and salt and heat until an instant read thermometer reaches 175 degrees. The milk will begin to just bubble and start to steam. At this temperature you’ll begin to see the curds separate from the whey. Be mindful of over stirring the ricotta while the curds are forming- you don’t want to make your ricotta stiff. Let it sit for 5 minutes undisturbed and you will be left with a very creamy and pleasant finished result.
3Gently remove curds from the pot to the colander. Use the side of the cheesecloth to very gently release some of the liquid. Tie up the curds using butcher’s twine and let drain for 5-10 minutes. Remove from cheesecloth and place in bowl. Serve warm on toasted bread with lemon zest and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
COOK’S NOTE: Refrigerate leftover ricotta in a covered container for up to 5 days.