Feta Pasta bake - but a ricotta version



Tonight's dinner was so, so good!  It's something I make often but not usually from food storage.  My normal would be a baked feta pasta dish but opted to use some homemade ricotta I had in the freezer from last week.   

The baked cheese pasta dish didn't use a recipe but went something like this...

3 cans diced tomatoes, drained
olive oil
fresh minced garlic
homemade ricotta cheese
red pepper flakes
pasta - cooked and tossed with a bit of butter
salt and pepper

On a foil lined baking pan, drizzle some olive oil.  Add the tomatoes and garlic.  Place the feta or ricotta in the center, drizzle with more olive oil.  Sprinkle with oregano, red pepper flakes and basil, salt and pepper.  Bake at 400 for about 35 minutes or more until the tomatoes are roasted through and cheese is getting golden.

Mash it all up if you wish - or leave it all in whole pieces if you like that better.  I do a bit of both.  I use a stick blender to blend about 1/3 of the sauce to thicken it.   Pour over pasta of choice and serve with homemade bread.

I'm also going to add the homemade cheese 'recipe' although I didn't actually use a recipe for it. 

Very similar to my homemade yogurt, except I didn't have any fresh plain yogurt as a starter, and ended up using citric acid crystals and making cheese.  I do make homemade cheese fairly often, but I've always used fresh milk - not milk powder.  I'm happy to report the whole milk powder worked pretty well.  It was a soft ricotta like cheese, which I salted to taste and then froze until today.

I actually added the cheese to the pan and went into the oven while it still frozen.  :)
The Cheese

1-2 t citric acid crystals mixed in 2 T milk
1 quart water
1 1/2 - 2 cups dry whole milk powder - I used Nido

Use a 1 quart container of whatever style you wish but it's easiest if it has some sort of lid.
Fill it about half way with water, add the citric acid/milk mixture and whisk or mix briefly, then add the powdered milk.  Shake, whisk or blend until smooth.  Fill the rest of the container up to the 1 quart line.  Put the top on or cover it well, and let it set for about 12 hours someplace fairly warm like an oven with a light on or, I put mine on a heating pad set to 'low' and cover with a dish towel.  You can also speed up the process by heating your milk on the stove until it starts to get tiny little bubbles around the edge, but it doesn't burn, scorch or boil!  You take it off the heat, add the citric acid (or use about a tablespoon of vinegar or even lemon juice) - stir, and as it starts to curdle, you continue with the next step.

Sprinkle salt to taste, mix and then place it in the center of a piece of cheesecloth, and bundle up.  Hang so the liquid can drain out and let it drain for an hour until all the liquid has drained off.  Squeeze a bit, form into a round and refrigerator or freeze until needed.



 Into the oven........ the cheese was still frozen as I didn't know I was making this for dinner until... I was.



Out of the oven.  Could have gone longer, but it smelled so good and I was getting so hungry!

Using a stick blender to blend about 1/3 of it to thicken... then onto the pasta! 

I randomly grabbed a box off the shelf - it was rotini this time.
Served with the homemade bread made earlier today.

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