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Although I’ve been Italian all my life, it took becoming Jewish to motivate me to make my own ricotta. Passover, specifically, bears responsibility for sending me down this path. Even though you can find kosher ricotta, getting your hands on kosher for Passover ricotta is a challenge for most people. So if you want to follow kosher rules for Passover and want ricotta, the best option is to make it yourself. Challenge accepted.

For coaching and a recipe, I consulted Jewish-Italian chef and my second-cousin-in-law Richard DiNenna. He makes his ricotta with buttermilk, and he walked me through the steps. Now, what we make at home isn’t officially ricotta, which means “recooked” and is made from whey leftover from other cheesemaking. No matter, because you know what? The homemade version of ricotta works. And it tastes fresh, creamy, and pure—with none of the off flavors you often get with store-bought ricotta. I put spoonfuls of my first batch of homemade ricotta on our pizza later that night, and my husband asked whether we could have it on our pizza every week. (Nope, more on that in a minute.)

Next, I tweaked the recipe to avoid buttermilk (which often contains stabilizers and would be difficult if not impossible to find kosher-for-Passover certified). Lemon juice mixed with milk to create a cup of sour milk (buttermilk, essentially) worked beautifully. I only had one flop in testing; it happened my third time out when I made it on an electric stovetop that I wasn’t used to using. I think the heat was too low during cooking, and the curds did not form properly. However, if the heat had been too high, the mixture might have scorched on the bottom. It’s a little bit of a balancing act. But other than one miss, each run through the recipe yielded a nice batch of ricotta.

So all the rumors were true—it is not difficult, and in fact, it is quite delightful to make your own ricotta. Much of the process is largely unattended; I was able to make this successfully while preparing other recipes in the kitchen. But it does require keeping an eye on, and you will be using a large pot, a thermometer, a large strainer, and cheesecloth, among other items, and if you are like me, you’ll probably be spilling a little whey about the kitchen. It’s all in service of a good cause, but I understand that this is not an everyday process for most of us (and I count myself in that—sorry, dear, about the pizza). Store-bought still works fine for many occasions, especially when the ricotta is mixed with other strong flavors, such as in lasagna. But homemade ricotta is a spectacular recipe and technique to have in your back pocket for special treats like topping crostini or a mild pasta dish, or especially for Passover’s matzah pizza.

Thanks to Judaism, I’ve delved a little deeper into Italian cooking once again.

Ricotta on Matzah Pizza










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