Monday, March 23, 2009

Milk and eggs and baked ziti

Here's an old familiar face.
Dozer hasn't changed much in looks from the last time I saw him. He's got little horn nubbins coming in, but he's still cute. But watch out! He is a total bully now. Ever wonder about that word's origin? Go hang out with a young bull and you'll know. He very much wanted to push me around, even though I was outside the pen. So I wasn't able to get any closer than this to the new girl being milked:
Her name is Minnie, and she's a Jersey like Daisy. It didn't look like Dozer was doing his duty by Daisy, who needs to produce a calf before she can produce milk, so Minnie joined the herd. Now, though, Daisy's looking a little ... round. So maybe? Anyway, there's milk.

And eggs. Those gangly chicks are now happy biddies. The hour was a little late, so no pics this time, sorry. But you can see their output.
That stuff on the left? That's about two gallons of milk, turned into ricotta.

And the stuff on the right? That's baked ziti, made with the ricotta and tomatoes from last year's garden.

I've made ricotta before, with goat's milk. I followed the same method here, but the stuff refused to curdle! I used buttermilk as the curdling agent, but I suspect I didn't use enough. In desperation, I juiced two lemons and threw the juice into the pot. That seemed to do the trick, though the whey still looked more white than watery. But hey, I got cheese, and it tastes just fine.

For the ziti, I followed this recipe, very roughly. I used a gallon bag of tomatoes, thawed. I had seeded and cored them before I froze them, so I just had to spend a couple minutes pulling off the loose skins before running them through the food processor.

I sauteed half an onion and garlic, minced, added the tomatoes, a bunch of dried basil, salt and pepper. Meanwhile, I had the pasta boiling until nearly al dente, and separately mixed up a couple cups of ricotta with two beaten eggs and a handful of shredded mozzarella and shredded parmesan.

Toss the pasta with a little sauce, layer it in a casserole, add dollops of cheese mixture, then sauce, and repeat once or twice, depending on the size of the casserole. Bake at 375 for about a half-hour. (The recipe said 350 and 20 minutes, but I like mine really baked.)

It's awesome.


  1. You are so cool! I just made ricotta for the first time last month and loved the process. I need to adopt a farm animal for some fresh milk - I would love to learn how to make other cheese products. Mozzarella, feta, chevre...
    Wish I lived in the country, sigh..

  2. Is this your standard recipe for tomato sauce? I'm assuming you HAVE a standard recipe for it... A week or so ago I was reading a blog (unnamed, not yours) and got all bent outta shape b/c someone made a disparaging remark about cooks who use (shudder) any bottled tomato sauce, like Ragu. I began to question my worth as a mother, cook, and human being. For years I've made my spaghetti sauce or lasagna sauce or whatever with jars of the stuff. But now I'm ready to make it from scratch. So I'm looking for good, easy recipes. Your advice would be welcome.

  3. Is homemade ricotta really better tasting than the stuff you can buy in the store?

  4. Natashya, check around; that farm animal may be closer than you think! A lot of cities have dairy co-ops or dairy-shares operations that will deliver to a central location.

    Pam, I use jarred sauce in lasagna all the time. There are lots of good ones out there and there's no shame in using them, especially when you're pressed for time. If you do have time, it's quite easy to make your own, though. The easiest is to throw onion, garlic, a couple carrots and celery stalks in the food processor, then sautee the resulting puree in olive oil, then add tomatoes. You can use canned tomatoes or fresh, and either puree them, too, or crush them with your hands as you put them in the pot. Add fresh or dried basil and oregano, salt and pepper, simmer for a bit and voilĂ !

    If you want to add meat, I recommend a mix of ground veal or beef and ground pork. And a little pancetta is nice, too. Brown the meat, set aside, then add with the tomatoes.

    Betts, I think the homemade stuff is much richer-tasting and creamier. I don't object to the store-bought stuff, but this milk needed to be used up right away, so.

  5. what a wonderful post-- farm animals and the resultant products from them! those eggs look Amazing!!
    and i'm going to have to try making my own tomato sauce now-- that recipe you gave sounds really simple and yummy! thanks!

  6. I've been meaning to make my own ricotta also, but so far haven't had the energy to bike home a gallon of milk. I feel inspired now, though! And I like my baked pasta really "baked" too :)