Food should be about fun, pleasure and simplicity but for many people, enjoying their favorite foods is an everyday hassle because of food allergies. There are so many to talk about and I would like to eventually get to all of them. As a cheese loving individual who wants to bring dairy back to the suffering, cheese deprived people of the world, we will talk about lactose intolerance. Although there are some great lactose free products out there, they are very limited and I can’t understand why. Besides lactose free products, aged cheeses, which have little to no lactose sugars left in them, are usually okay for most lactose intolerant people. Some people can even tolerate yogurt because the active live cultures may help with digestion. It is the soft cheeses, such as ricotta or mozzarella that pose a real challenge. Recently, my cousin, ( http://chefpaulblog.blogspot.com ) fellow food blogger and professional chef and I decided we would like to take on this dairy challenge and make our own ricotta from Lactose free milk and use it to fill homemade ravioli. My cousin and I have been cooking and creating disasters and masterpieces alike in the kitchen since we were little kids. Our unsuspecting parents were subject to many “concoctions” as my mother refers to them, such as pancake fritters, which is code for two eight year olds got tired of waiting for pancakes and threw all the batter in and scrambled them like eggs. Or the classic time we decided to make lemon tart and did not understand blind baking and cooked raw beans straight into the pie crust. These crazy adventures were the beginning of our food careers and looking back on these times I see a common theme. We were never afraid of food or making mistakes and that’s probably why we grew into grown-up chefs that actually know what they are doing in the kitchen. Although we took different paths in the food world, Paul a professional Chef working and managing many highly acclaimed establishments, and I a teacher of kids, teenagers and adults, we both still love food in the same way and look forward to a crazy day in the kitchen together. Let the mess begin!
The first thing you need to make ricotta cheese is acid. We chose lemon, 3/4 cup to be exact. Combine with 1 gallon of lactose free milk and bring up to 180 degrees.
Shut the heat and let the curdling begin! It will be soupy, you will become worried, but worry not – cheese it will be! Strain through cheese cloth or in a mess strainer.
Somebody call little miss Muffet – that’s curds and whey I see! (C’mon – you didn’t see that bad joke coming?)
Wow! Look! cheese! You just made cheese! That is awesome!
Okay pasta time…
The professional Chef said to weigh it… so I did… 1 pound of flour…
Now dump it out onto a large, spacious, clean surface. This is gonna get messy.
Make a well in the center,
You will need 4 beaten eggs, 2 TBL olive oil and 2 TBL of water and 1 tsp of salt.
Ok ready? Add them into the center of the well…
This is getting crazy… slowly mix the edges of the well into the eggs…don’t break the walls and let the eggs run out!!!
How are you doing? Good? Good… okay now bring it all together…
and knead the dough…like this…
Let the cooking teacher take and break and make the professional chef finish kneading…
How is it? Is it dry? You need some olive oil? Discuss…talk amongst yourselves…
Ok let the pasta take a nap in a plastic wrap blanket in the refrigerator for an hour.
In the meantime start the sauce… “What should we make?” “Braised Pork Neckbone and Tomato Ragu?” “Awesome idea professional chef!” Now the cooking teacher will dice some mirepoix ( carrots, celery, onion ). See I just taught you something.
Dredge a package of neck bones in seasoned flour and sear in a heavy bottom pan with canola oil. Did you know that grape seed oil and avocado oil have extremely high smoking points? The professional chef taught that to the cooking teacher.
Add mirepoix and sweat until softened. Add chopped tomatoes, a large can of tomato juice, salt, pepper and love. Let simmer uncovered for about 2 hours.
Pasta rolling time!!
Roll dough out into long wide strips according to the directions on your pasta machine.
Make sure you have a long table to lay strips out onto.
Now you are ready to fill the sheets. We filled it with a mixture of sautéed swiss chard and shallots, the lemon ricotta we made, parmesan cheese, fresh basil and salt and pepper.
We filled these a few different ways, using round cutters, a rolling wheel cutter and a ravioli press brought to me from my sister on her recent trip to Italy. For all of them we used the same basic method. Lay one sheet down, position a spoonful of filling on top, brush with egg wash, lay another sheet on top and seal/cut.
If you have leftover sheets make them into fettucine!
Boil A LOT of salted water and cook fresh pasta briefly, only about 4-5 minutes.
Serve with the braised pork and tomato ragu and top with fresh basil. Treat the dairy deprived. Feed to those you love.