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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Homemade Mozzarella

So I'm on a bit of a cheese roll. Once I got the hang of ricotta (and totally addicted), I figured I'd branch out and see what else I can make...stay tuned for Greek Yogurt. Now, the mozzarella was a bit trickier and required some new ingredients and tools. My biggest pot is not stainless steel and you have to have one for the cheese - so make sure you've got one, a big one (8 Qts). You'll also need a digital candy thermometer that reads as low as 80F and a large slotted plastic spoon. The two hard to find ingredients for this are citric acid and rennet. I bought them on Amazon after a bit of searching in local stores. Here's how it goes according to the "Cheese Queen" on

1 1/2 tsp citric acid
1 cup bottled water - divided (must be non-chlorinated so don't trust the tap?)
1 gallon whole milk
1/4 of a rennet tablet

1. Dissolve the citric acid into one cup of cool bottled water and pour into your pot. Add the milk.

2. Heat slowly to 90F.

3. Remove the pot from the burner. Dissolve the rennet in 1/4 cup of bottled water. Pour the rennet mixture into the milk and stir slowly for 30 seconds. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.

4. After 5 minutes, check the curd that has formed. It will look like custard and the whey will be clear. If it's too soft, let it sit for a few more minutes.

5. Use your knife to cut the curd into 1 inch squares while still in place in the pot. You will have a layer of curd that look like dice or square pieces of tofu in the pot.

6. Place the pot back on the burner and heat to 105F. Stir slowly.

7. Take off the burner and continue stirring for 2-5 minutes. Using a large slotted plastic spoon, scoop out the curd to a colander and drain the whey. Gently press the curd to drain as needed.

8. Transfer the curd to a microwave proof bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Pour off the whey.

9. Knead in the bowl and then reheat for another 30 seconds. Repeat if needed until the curd is 135F.

10. Transfer the curd to a cutting board and knead as you would bread dough. Return it to the microwave if needed. If it's hot enough, it'll stretch. Stretch it a bit and then knead it back into a ball until smooth and shiny.
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Pasta with Cauliflower, Bacon and Sage

So cauliflower is definitely not what I think of when I want to make pasta. But I came across this recipe and it's really good! The sage and bacon give it a ton of flavor. It's also a really quick one, so good for a weekday night. You can never really go wrong with bacon...

1/2 box of pasta - ziti, penne, rigatoni are all good for this
5 slices of bacon, chopped
3 TB butter
1 onion, diced small
1 clove of garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 medium head of cauliflower cut into florets
2 TB fresh sage, chopped
2 tsp red-wine vinegar

1. Cook the pasta until just al dente. Drain when finished, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.

2. In a large saute pan, cook the bacon until crispy. Drain most of the bacon fat, leaving a good layer in the pan. Add the butter and onions, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until onions are translucent.

3. Add the cauliflower, some salt and pepper, cover and cook until tender, stirring occasionally.

4. Stir in the bacon and sage and mix well. Cook for a minute or two. Add the pasta and the pasta water to create a sauce to coat the pasta.

That's it!! Print Friendly and PDF

Veggie Lasagne

 I think lasagne is my all time favorite comfort food. It's the kind of food that just makes me go aaaaaahhhh. The layers of flavors and the cheeeese. Of course, the cheese. We used to have it a lot growing up and then my mom started adding grated vegetables. This is a take on hers. She always included shredded carrots which give it a nice sweetness. It's one of those meals that's different every time, depending on what you've got in your fridge. I'll include some suggestions for variations below. But overall, the zucchini and mushrooms in this give it one more dimension - and make it taste a little lighter.

4-5 cups of tomato sauce - (just cause it's a veggie lasagne doesn't mean you can't have meat. Add some ground sausage to your sauce for even more flavor)
1 package of no-boil lasagne noodles
1 big or 2 small zucchinis - grated and squeezed thoroughly through cheesecloth or papertowel
1 box of baby bella mushrooms - finely chopped
1 small container ricotta - you can make your own! (sometimes I like to add goat cheese)
1 egg, beaten
1 package of shredded Italian cheese (or sliced fontina, provolone, fresh mozzarella)
1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Mix the ricotta with the beaten egg in a small bowl. Add a bit of salt and pepper and half a cup of the fresh basil.

3. In a large rectangular baking dish, ladle enough sauce so that it coats the bottom. Arrange one layer of the dried noodles across the dish.

4. Add a layer of ricotta over the noodles and spread so that it reaches all corners and edges. Add all of the shredded zucchini and then press down lightly with your hands. Add some more tomato sauce - just sprinkle it over the zucc. It doesn't have to cover it all or be perfect.

5. Add another layer of noodles and some more ricotta. Sprinkle all of the mushrooms. Add some shredded cheese or sliced provolone or fontina if you're using that instead.

6. Add another layer of noodles. Depending on how deep your dish is, you can repeat another layer of cheese and sauce. You should layer until your lasagne is even with the top of the dish. For the final layer, ladle enough sauce over the top so that the noodles are covered. Top with fresh mozzarella or other shredded cheese.

7. Tent tin foil over the lasagne to completely cover and seal it - but try not to let it tough the top or all of your cheese will come off with the foil when it's done baking. Put the dish on a cookie sheet and into the oven for 1 hour.

8. After an hour, take the foil off and cook for another 15 minutes until the cheese bubbles and is golden.

Sprinkle with the rest of the basil and enjoy!!

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