Waiting for cheese to age is agonizing. Especially if you're required to take the cheese out and lovingly rub it with salt every day for a week. I felt as frustrated as the cannibalistic witch in Hansel and Gretel when Hansel was taking too long to fatten up. Age, cheese, age!
But after two weeks, I had produced my first pressed cheese - ricotta salata. It can age longer, but I could not wait longer than the requisite two weeks. Or the more rational answer - I had to test it to make sure I was doing it right. It would be devastating to wait four weeks only to find out the whole thing had gone rancid, no?
Alas, I feasted on my cheese baby. I know it sounds morbid to call it that, but the amount of babying this little cheese wheel needs is akin to changing diapers. (I've never actually changed a diaper, and my annoyance at having to take two seconds to salt and flip my cheese wheel every other day reflects the likelihood that I'll ever be a mother. God, I hope my mom isn't reading this.)
When I made mozzarella, I made pizza. For ricotta salata, I made something equally marvelous and tasty - pasta. I could have easily bought pasta noodles, but that's just not how I roll. I'd probably grow my own wheat and mill my own flour if I could and have Keynes rolling over in his grave.
I've already blogged on how to dry fresh pasta on a drying rack. What I failed to cover is how to make it. I used a basic pasta recipe, and since I don't have a pasta machine, I hand-rolled it.
1 cup flour
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix the flour and salt together and dump it onto a clean surface. Form a mound and scoop out a hole in the middle. Plop the egg into the mound, and start working the flour into the egg mixture to form a dough. I've seen Mario Batali (who has breadsticks for fingers) accomplish this with great finesse. I got egg and flour everywhere, and though it was a sticky ordeal, I was able to form a dough.
Knead for a few minutes to get the dough to come together.
The key to getting dough rolled out thin enough is to let is relax. Every time the dough starts to spring back after being rolled, wait ten minutes for the gluten to chill out. Then, proceed rolling. Try to roll out into more of a rectangle than me.
|What continent do you think this looks like?|
The annoying part is having to unroll the noodles after slicing them. It's not difficult, just time-consuming. But so is the whole business of hand-rolling your own pasta noodles.
Once the noodles are made, you can dry them to eat later, or boil them right away. They take about 4-8 minutes to cook depending on how thick you're cutting the pasta. Once they float to the top, keep checking for doneness.
To make the primavera sauce, I just used whatever vegetables I had on hand. Substitute and simplify at will.
a few cloves of garlic, roughly minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 purple bell pepper, thinly sliced
15-20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 a bunch of fresh spinach, washed and chopped
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
salt and pepper to taste
Sauté the garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes. Then throw in the bell peppers and sauté.
Add in the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are squishy and render their juices.
Then add the chopped spinach and cook until just wilted. Add the Italian herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste.
The tomatoes should have cooked down enough to where you have enough of a sauce for the noodles. If not, add in some of the pasta water (about 1/2 a cup) and some olive oil (a few drizzles).
Dump the drained linguine pasta into the primavera sauce and toss to coat.
Slice up some ricotta salata and top the dish. Eat up.
I know it looks a bit like Chinese food topped with goat cheese, but it was SO FRIGGIN' GOOD.
I also made ravioli from mandu/dumpling wrappers filled with the same cheese.