One of the easiest cheeses to make is ricotta. Trust me on this one. It may seem daunting, but it's really not. Homemade ricotta is cheaper than store bought and richer and creamier. Once you see how easy it is to make it, you will never use store bought again. So now that you have your rich, creamy homemade ricotta, put it on a toasted baguette with a bit of prosciutto and just a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Kick off your backyard bbq with this tasty appetizer and amaze your friends how something so easy to make can taste so good!
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 French baguette, sliced
- ¼ - ½ pound thinly sliced Prosciutto
- Extra-virgin olive oil (Trader Joe’s brand and California are my favorites)
- Balsamic Vinegar (buy the best one you can – it should be thick and syrup-like)
- 1 package of cheesecloth
Pour the milk, cream and salt into a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan. Attach a candy or deep-fry thermometer. Heat the milk to 190°F, stirring it occasionally to keep it from scorching on the bottom. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, then stir it once or twice, gently and slowly. Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl (to catch the whey). Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least an hour. At an hour, you’ll have a tender, spreadable ricotta.
At two hours, it will be spreadable but a bit firmer, almost like cream cheese. (It will firm as it cools, so do not judge its final texture by what you have in your cheesecloth.) Discard the whey.
While the ricotta is draining, take the baguette slices and put them in a single layer on a sheet pan. Brush each piece with olive oil and toast under your broiler until the edges start to brown. DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BROILER! This is crucial, because it won't take long (a matter of minutes) for the bread to toast and if you walk away you run the risk of it burning.
In a single layer on a serving tray, lay the toasted baguette slices. Put a generous scoop of ricotta on each slice, followed by a small piece of prosciutto (or a large piece, depending on your preference). Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I like to put the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in two separate squeeze bottles which makes it much easier for drizzling.
Serve immediately. If you’re not serving right away, store the ricotta in your refrigerator until ready to use. Store any ricotta leftovers (which you probably won’t have, but in case you do) in the refrigerator.
Recipe for Ricotta from Smitten Kitchen