Shelter in Place and Make Ricotta!

Sunday March 22, 2020 La Paz Mexico

One of our favorite galley discoveries is boat-made ricotta cheese. We were driven to make it ourselves out of necessity: a strong longing for lasagna combined with ricotta being difficult to find in Mexico. Happily for the crew of Estelle it turns out that ricotta cheese is super duper easy to make and is fantastic! Once you make it, you’ll never purchase store-bought ricotta again. Big bonus: it can be made from shelf-stable dairy, easily stowed on board. YAY!

Shelf Stable Dairy – works on board to make ricotta!

We have been using a modified version of Ina Garten’s (Barefoot Contessa) recipe for homemade ricotta that we found online. And it couldn’t be easier.

Estelle’s Boat-made Ricotta Cheese

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or whipping cream)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (we use our “good” salt from San Juan Island)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons white vinegar

Directions:

Bring salt, milk, and cream to a boil on the cooktop and immediately turn off the burner when the boil starts. Stir in the vinegar. Let mixture sit on the stove for a couple minutes to curdle.

Set up a separate large bowl with a steamer or sieve inside of it (this will help drain the whey from the curds). Drape the sieve with cheese cloth (I have been using a fine mesh produce bag in lieu of cheese cloth). Pour the curdled milk mixture into the cloth. Let it drain for about 20-30 minutes – more if you like your ricotta drier, less if you like it creamier. (You may want to pour off some of the whey as it accumulates at the bottom of the bowl to ensure that it separates from the curd.) The ricotta may be used immediately after draining or stored in the fridge. This recipe makes about 12 oz of ricotta. The recipe is easily doubled for more ricotta yumminess.

12 oz. of lovely ricotta cheese

Our two favorite recipes that use ricotta are…wait for it…LASAGNA (natch) and dessert crepes. For the lasagna, since we can’t easily find mozzarella cheese in Mexico, we use oaxaca cheese. Oaxaca is a stringy mild white cheese that substitutes beautifully for mozzarella. We also like to use on board the “no boil” lasagna noodles to make everything easy. (Use a little more sauce with the no boil noodles than you would with boiled noodles to ensure that the noodles are nice and soft when the lasagna comes out of the oven. ) Since we are a “clean out the leftover veggies” type of lasagna makers on Estelle, our lasagna is never the same twice. The jist of the recipe follows but bear in mind these proportions are all more or less about what we use, and can vary widely based on what’s readily at hand in the galley.

Baja Lasagna on Estelle

  • 10-12 oz of boat-made ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup parmesan
  • lemon pepper (or salt and pepper) to taste
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella or oaxaca cheese (grated or sliced thin according to preference
  • 2 cups of pasta sauce – canned, homemade, whatever is on hand
  • 1 tablespoon italian seasoning
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 sauteéd sweet onion
  • Veggies–sliced to make layering easier. We often use zucchini, mushrooms, roma tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, etc.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Prepare your pasta sauce – Simply sauté garlic and onion (mushrooms are always good too) and add to one can (14 oz of tomato sauce). Season sauce with a tablespoon of italian seasoning, and then cook it down to thicken it. Salt to taste. The sauce is always better if cooked up the day before but that’s not always possible. And we are perfectly fine with using jarred pasta sauce from the grocery store–we’ve found a shelf-stable boxed version in Mexico made by Hunt’s that is super easy to store on the boat.
  • Mix ricotta, egg, parmesan, and lemon pepper together. Set aside.
  • Prep your cheese and veggies and start assembling. I like to use a loaf pan or 8×8 square pan (the loaf pan makes for a thicker lasagna–but line it with foil for easier lasagna removal). Start with a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan, then layer noodles, 1/3 of remaining sauce, 1/2 of the ricotta mixture, 1/2 of the veggies, 1/3 mozzarella cheese. Repeat with a second layer of noodle, sauce, ricotta, veggies, and mozzarella. Top with one last layer of noodles, last 1/3 of the pasta sauce and mozzarella. Voila! Cover with foil and into the oven it goes–if using an 8 by 8 pan it will take about 45 minutes to cook through (sauce should be bubbling) or closer to an hour if using a loaf pan. Check about 30-40 minutes into baking and uncover top foil if you like to brown the mozzarella on top.

Another favorite use of the boat-made ricotta is dessert crepe filling. Super easy and major yum – this has become one of Estelle’s go-to treats.

Estelle’s Easy Peasy Crepe Filling

  • One cup homemade ricotta
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream or milk to slightly thin
  • optional: 1/4 tsp orange or lemon vest

Directions: Mix all together together and spread mixture on a 1/4 section of a circular crepe. Fold crepe in half and then in half again. Top with powdered sugar, whipped cream, berries, jam, lemon curd, nutella, bananas, etc., etc. We like to set up a variety of toppings and let guests serve themselves. We love crepe parties! (Something to look forward to in the future when social distancing restrictions are lifted.)

The homemade ricotta filling makes this simple crepe a major yum!

If you are looking for an easy and good crepe recipe we highly recommend the one posted on monasterykitchen.org. Search for the crepe recipe with lemon-ricotta filling. We like to make a bunch of crepes and keep them in the fridge, sandwiched between layers of parchment paper, until ready to use. https://monasterykitchen.org/crepes-with-lemon-ricotta-filling/

That’s it from Estelle’s Galley for this post. We hope to have some news on Estelle’s near-term sailing plans soon. Stay well friends. For now, we are sheltering in place and making ricotta!

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