During high school there are always one or two classes that you take and tell yourself... "I am never going to use this when I get older so why in the world are they making me take this now?" That thought came racing back to me as Jeffrey and I continued our adventures in cheesemaking last Sunday. Never EVER did I think chemistry would play a role in my adult life, but it is now rearing its ugly head in some of the tastiest ways.
Making cheese is part art, part science and lots of passion. The science part is probably the most challenging for a person of many words (and few numbers and periodic tables) like myself. A few weeks ago I attempted cheesemaking in Sonoma only to learn that the combination of everything from the water to the milk, citric acid, rennet and heat all play a vital role in product perfection. My results were rubbery and tasted a little strange.
So of course Jeffrey, my fellow urban artisan, and I tried again and followed the process to the letter. Our mozzarella was perfect and we decided to use the leftover whey to make ricotta cheese. The ricotta cheese would be used in the pumpkin ravioli that we were planning to prepare for our friends Jaiden, Christopher and Jim.
We wanted to ensure that practically everything in the ravioli was made from scratch. We made the cheese, the pasta dough and roasted a pumpkin so we could harvest the flesh for the filling. The entire process, from shopping to preparing the ingredients, assembling the ravioloi and enjoying the tasty pasta took about 3 hours.
When Jeffrey and I make ricotta we always make mozzarella first. Our goal is to get the most from that one gallon of milk. It is all about yield my friends. So you can learn about making mozzarella here and making ricotta cheese here. Note that you can also make ricotta cheese from whole milk.
The rest of the ravioli is pretty easy.
Before you make your cheese begin preparing the pumpkin and make the pasta.
You can always use canned pumpkin, but there is something extra special about roasting your own pumpkin. So if you choose this route, heat the oven to 375 degrees and roast for about 75 - 90 minutes. Cool, cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds (set aside to roast the seeds if you want) and then remove the flesh from the skin of the pumpkin. If the flesh still feels as though it need to cook more, then place back into the oven for 15-20 more minutes. You will know this by the feel of the pumpkin flesh against the knife. If it slides easily it is done, if there is some pressure then you need to cook it more. Once it is ready, transfer the flesh to a food processor and process until smooth.
To make the pasta you will need 3 cups of flour, 3 eggs, 2 tsps of Kosher salt and 1 tbsp of water. Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and process until the dough forms into a ball. Remove from the bowl, roll into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and place into the fridge until ready to use.
For the filling:
- 2 cups of pumpkin (fresh or from the can)
- 2 cups of ricotta cheese (fresh from your kitchen or store bought -- drained well, very well -- you can use a cheesecloth to do this)
- 1 small onion chopped very fine and sauteed with 1 tbsp of butter and 2 or 3 sprigs of sage
- 2 tsp of nutmeg
- 2 tsp of allspice
- 1 tsp of kosher salt
- 2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
Melt butter over medium heat and sautee onions and sage until translucent. Let cool, combine with the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
Roll out the dough (we go to the number six -- you want it to be thin, but not too thin that it falls apart when cooking) and cut into 3x3 pieces. Lightly wet the edges with water and add about 1/2 tbsp of filling in the center of the dough. Fold over and crimp with your fingers making sure to remove all of the air from the center with the filling. Repeat until all of the dough is gone or until all of the filling has disappeared. You can freeze the leftover dough or filling for another time.
When you cook the pasta you should use veggie broth, chicken broth or the leftover whey from your cheesemaking. It should only take about 5-8 minutes to cook through.
For the sauce -- melt one stick of butter with a few cloves of minced garlic and 5 or 6 sage leaves. Remove the cooked pasta, plate and spoon the sauce over the pasta. Top off with some freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve.