Ricotta Pantesca

All about Pantelleria ricotta, with ricotta recipe

Every visit to Sicily makes me fall deeper in love. I've just returned from a week with intrepid noble gastronomer Anna Tasca Lanza.  We stayed with friends on the island of Pantelleria, off the west coast, and learned how the locals called Panteschi (the feminine is Pantesca) make ricotta at home.

There are no sheep on the island and so they use cow's milk, far less rich than sheep's milk. Usually ricotta is made with whey that is already a by-product of the cheese-making process, but on Pantelleria they use whole milk mixed with seawater (fresh water is scarce) which is heated, acidulated with lemon juice, and then strained.  It sounded easy enough, so Anna and I headed into the kitchen.

We tried the process with pasteurized milk and loved the results. In order to make the homemade recipe feasible we mixed Sicilian sea salt and water to recreate the primal Mediterranean recipe for "sea," and then figured out the American measurements for the ricotta. Try our easy Ricotta Pantesca recipe yourself.

2 quarts whole milk
1 recipe Mediterranean sea water (recipe below)
juice of 2 lemon, around 1/3 cup

Heat the milk and the sea water over low heat until it boils.  Add the lemon juice, stir a few times and when mixture begins to curdle remove from the heat.  Let curds rest for a minute or two.  Skim the ricotta curds from the whey with a slotted spoon or skimmer and place them in a colander lined with cheesecloth, a wire sieve or a small plastic ricotta basket if you can find one and drain for 15 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature with a drizzle of honey.  

Yield: around 1/2 pound ricotta pantesca

1 tablespoon sea salt
2 cups water (filtered or bottled if local water is too chlorinated)
Mix salt in water until dissolved.


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