As the boyfriend is a vegetarian (though not a vegan, a very important distinction for the purposes of this recipe), I am always–as in, ALWAYS–on the lookout for veggie entrees. So when I came across this recipe for peperonata it was sort of a no-brainer; peppers, olives, onion? Tomato sauce? On bread? Done and done! (And it goes pretty nicely with some chicken, for all you carnivorous types.)
But the kicker for this recipe, the thing that had me at hello, was the do-it-yourself ricotta. Admittedly, it’s an ersatz ricotta as it is only cooked once (“re-cooked”, ricotta, get it, get it?) and directly from milk, not from the milk solids left over from making other cheeses. But it’s something I’ve wanted to try for a while and when I saw it paired with a pepper stew? It was as though choirs of angels sang over my head with joy. Was I going to make this? You bet I was.
I’m just linking to the recipe, as it was so good I didn’t really change a single thing about it (except one; I added a serrano pepper for a little bit of heat and next time, I’ll add two, but that’s the only change I made). So here is the recipe: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2011/09/peperonata-with-ricotta-crostoni and many thanks to the good people of Bon Appetit.
The first thing I did was start the cheese. They recommend giving it plenty of time to drain and after making it, so do I. This is all you need:
OK, OK. You don’t need the raisins or the Tia Maria. But on a completely unrelated note…does anyone else here think Tia Maria + vodka + almond milk sounds like a good idea? Or is it just me?
Take the above ingredients, put them in a pot larger than you’d expect to need, and let it boil. When it starts to boil it will expand so in all earnestness, please use a large pot or you’ll be cleaning steaming cheese curds out of your cabinetry. Remove it from the heat and DO NOT TOUCH IT for fifteen minutes. The curds are delicate and will break apart and then you’ll never be able to retrieve them correctly and your cheeselicious efforts will be for naught. Leave them alone.
Once you’ve finished not touching it (fifteen minutes, people!), get a nice big spoon–not a slotted spoon as you want to cause the curds to break as little as possible, and they’d go straight through the slots–and scoop it into your waiting cheesecloth-lined colander sitting on a utility bowl.
Isn’t that a book? Who Drained My Cheese? No? I’m off? Oh, OK. Moving on.
You could also just keep it in a colander over a bowl wrapped in cheesecloth, but I had a pasta drying rack and wanted to go for the groovy. So. I let it drain until everything else was ready, and when I unwrapped it I had a beautiful bowl of delicious, creamy, slightly lemony, ricotta cheese.
You’ll have plenty left over, but that is just fine, it’ll freeze. It’s a really simple, lovely, basic tomato sauce. The recipe calls for San Marzano tomatoes which, if you can afford, you should by all means use (and local peeps, you can indeed get them at the Weis). But they’re usually three or four times more expensive than other sorts of canned tomatoes so believe me when I say you will not be disappointed if you use Furmano’s instead.
Because seriously? It is that good.