We are so excited to bring you this cheese, because it is so good, yet so simple. Plus, it’s actually two cheese recipes in one – a fresh cheese and a cured grating cheese! This isn’t traditional ricotta. It is a blend of a hard cheesemaking process and the ricotta-making process. But the results are as good as the best ricotta you’ve ever eaten. It is rich, delicious, and addictive.
We learnt to make this cheese from Nonno Giuseppe – a sweet and stoic man that our friend introduced to use in Puglia. He usually makes it with goat’s milk, but it works great with cow’s milk too, and no doubt also with sheep’s. Giuseppe says that it is just for pasta, but we think it’s great on everything.
2 litres goat’s milk (see notes)
1 teaspoon unrefined salt
1/4 teaspoon of calf or vegetarian chymosin rennet (see field notes)
1 litre (4 cups) boiling water
2 x 1 litre plastic bottles, filled with water and frozen solid
3-4 ricotta moulds, about 9-10cm in diameter and 7-8cm deep
Field notes – on cultures and rennet
Cultures and rennet are the two key ingredients in cheesemaking. Fortunately, these days, it’s super easy to order both online, or alternatively, they can be bought at cheesemaking stores and ever some health-food stores. The culture populates the milk with friendly bacteria (like the natural cultures in yoghurt) and the rennet separates the milk proteins from the whey so that you can capture the cheese solids from the milk.
Add the milk to a 3 litre (or larger) heavy-based pot and bring to near boil (between 80-90C) over medium heat, then turn off the heat. Stir in the salt, then lower in the ice bottle to rapidly cool to 38°C, which should take about 10-15 minutes. Remove the bottles at exactly 38°C. If you accidentally cool the milk too much, that’s fine, just gently warm it back up to exactly 38°C.
Once at temperature, in a small bowl, mix the rennet with 80ml (⅓ cup) of water, then add to the milk. Stir thoroughly (Giuseppe does exactly ten vigorous stirs), then set aside and leave completely undisturbed for 45 minutes to 1 hour, by which point the curd should be set (not hard set, but definitely set – see notes).
Stir the curds swiftly and thoroughly in one direction to completely disintegrate them, then add the boiling water, filling your 3-litre pot to about 1cm from the top. The curds will set again and then sink. Place a ricotta mould on top of the liquid and let it sink in – this is your barrier to stop you from ladling out curd rather than pure whey. Begin to remove a ladleful of whey at a time from the inside of the mould into a container or bowl – keep this whey for baking bread or souring grains.
Continue to ladle until most of the whey has gone and the liquid level is even with the curds. Place the remaining moulds on a rack over the sink (or a tray if you want to keep catching the whey) and use the mould in the pot to scoop the curds out into the others, filling all the moulds to the top. You should fill about three moulds. Drain for 2 hours if making fresh cacioricotta. If you want to make cured cacioricotta, it holds its shape much better if you leave it in the moulds for 12 hours.
Eating it fresh
After 2 hours draining in the moulds, turn out the cheeses and place in an airtight container with a few tablespoons of whey. They will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Curing it for grating
After 12 hours draining in the moulds, turn out the cheeses and sprinkle a little salt on the top and bottom of each, then place on a slightly sloping board in an open, shaded and airy place for 6-8 days, flipping them every other day (see notes).
After 8 days, refrigerate the cured cheeses in an airtight container. If a little mould has formed on the outside during curing, that’s fine, just wipe the cheese down with a clean cloth dipped in cool water before placing in the container. Your finished grating cheese will be firm, almost crumbly and quite salty – but fantastic grated over almost anything!
You can also make this recipe using cow’s milk. We’ve found that when you use cow’s milk, however, it can take much longer than 2 hours for the curd to set (even up to 12 hours). That’s okay, just wait until it has set before proceeding.
If you live in a particularly hot and humid climate you may have trouble curing the cacioricotta without mould becoming a problem, but it’s worth a shot.