Tag Archives: yankee

Fresh Ricotta Pasta


One of the things I’ve realized over time, is that a lot of the commercial ready-made products that we buy are a poor imitation of the real thing. What do I mean by real thing? Something that was made by hand, in small batches (artisanal if you will, although these days, I find that word to be a bit trite) and eaten within days of being made.


The grocery store where I regularly shop has a wonderful deli section, and I’ve always noticed that they sell fresh ricotta cheese by the pound. I’ve only ever used commercial ricotta and I’ve been wanting to try the real thing to see how it compares. My children typically don’t like ricotta. I think it has something to do with the grainy texture. Honestly, I am not a huge fan of the grainy texture either and was curious to see what fresh ricotta was like.


I decided to make a pasta recipe I’ve tried long ago. The recipe is from a great cookbook called Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes from the London River Cafe by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers. This cookbook, the second by these chefs, is aptly named and has a lot of simple and delicious recipes.

I started by putting a large pot of water to boil on the stove.  While waiting for the water to boil, I enlisted my children to help me cut a pint of cherry tomatoes in half and squeeze out the juice and seeds. I figured if they helped me with cooking the pasta, they’d be more willing to try ricotta cheese again.


We found using your thumb to push the seeds and juice out was the easiest method, and also prevented them from spraying everywhere. I then finely chopped a clove of garlic and combined it with the tomatoes, seasoning the mixture with salt and pepper and then allowing it to marinate about 15 minutes or so.


I also put the ricotta into a separate bowl and seasoned it with some salt and pepper. I coarsely chopped about a 1/2 cup of fresh basil. I dumped a pound of orecchiette pasta into the boiling with water with a sprinkling of course salt and cooked until el dente.


If you’ve never had orecchiette pasta you are missing out. They look like these little suction cups (which is what my eight year old calls them) which allow the sauce or whatever you’re mixing in to nestle perfectly in the pasta. If you don’t have any orecchiette on hand, or can’t find it in the store, than any other small pasta such as bow ties, or campanelle will be a fine substitute.


While the pasta was cooking I heated the tomato mixture over low heat in a medium size pot. Once the pasta was done I drained it, added it to the tomato mixture, sprinkled in the fresh basil and then gently stirred in the ricotta cheese.  I topped it off with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.



Delicious – fresh ricotta bares no resemblance to the commercial variety. It’s creamy in texture (no graininess to be found) and very light. It is consistent with my experience: the homemade version is always better. And the girls really loved this pasta too!


Fresh Ricotta Pasta

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 garlic clove
small bunch fresh basil
1 T olive oil
1 C ricotta cheese
1 pound orecchiette pasta
3 T grated parmesan cheese salt and pepper

Place a large pot of water to boil. Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze out seeds and juice. Finely chop clove of garlic and combine with the tomatoes and olive oil in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and let marinate for 15 minutes. Put ricotta in bowl and season with salt and pepper. When water boils, add orecchiette pasta to water and cook per package instructions to el dente. Gently heat tomato mixture over low heat in pot. Add cooked pasta and fresh basil stirring together. Stir in ricotta cheese and gently combine. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.


Yankee Pot Roast



If you are like me, as the season begins to change you suddenly realize that it is imperative to cook some of those ingredients stored in the freezer before it is too late. By too late I mean not only will the ingredients go bad, but let’s be realistic:  if the second turkey purchased around the holidays (it was such a good deal!) is not eaten now, it is unlikely to be eaten in the middle of the summer.


It was with this issue in mind that I decided to make pot roast the other night. Since the Chicago weather has really cooperated with me and remained at arctic temperatures (you think I’m kidding) pot roast turned out to be a lovely early spring meal.


Nothing beats the delicious homeyness of pot roast. That said, I am finding pot roast cuts increasingly difficult to find and wonder if this meal is becoming a bit of a has-been. Too bad, since it certainly is a nice treat.


I usually rely on a recipe from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Foods which features tomatoes as a main ingredient. This time I decided to try a recipe from a new favorite cook book of mine, All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking by Molly Stevens. This cookbook tells it like it is and Stevens provides practical tips on how to shop for and select good cuts of meat.


If you take anything away from this recipe, it’s the technique of covering the roast with parchment paper after it has been braised and before it is put in the oven to slow roast. According to Stevens, this step traps the moisture in the pot by reinforcing the lid’s seal and reducing any space in the pot.



Clearly, all that trapped moisture went right into this pot roast and gave it lots of flavor. The roast was moist, the vegetables were meaty, and all together it was well worth the effort.


Yankee Pot Roast, adapted from Molly Stevens All About Braising

4 lbs. beef chuck roast
course salt and freshly ground pepper
3 t olive oil
1 bay leaf
1/2 t dried thyme
3 whole cloves
3 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 C dry white wine
1 C beef or chicken stock
3 whole carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths

Preheat the oven to 300. Season roast with salt and pepper and allow to rest about 15-20 minutes.

Heat a Dutch oven (or other large heavy pot), over medium high heat until the pot is hot. Heat oil in pot and add seasoned roast with tongs. Sear on each side about 4-5 minutes until the surface of the meat is browned. Remove roast and set aside. Add wine to pot and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the bottom. Continue to boil until reduced by half, about 3-4 minutes. Add stock and bring to boil. Return pot roast and any accumulated liquid to the pot and add garlic, onion and the herbs.

Cover the roast with parchment paper, pressing paper down so that the paper touches the meat and the edges extend over the sides of the pot. Cover with lid.*

Roast in oven for about 45 minutes and then turn the roast with tongs. Cook for another 45 minutes. Turn roast again and add carrots.** Cook for an additional 1 1/2 hours (for a total of about 3 hours) until the meat is tender and the vegetables are easily pierced with a knife.

Serves 6

*Don’t despair if you do not have a lid for your pot.  Simply cover with tinfoil after the parchment paper.

**Stevens suggests you also add a half pound of peeled red potatoes and a half a pound of small turnips, peeled and quartered. I opted for only carrots because there wasn’t enough room in the pot.