Fresh Mozzarella Cheese

I have been hearing for some time how easy it is to make your own mozzarella cheese, but have felt a bit overwhelmed by the prospect, not knowing what exactly, a ‘clean break’ is or how to ‘cut’ and ‘work’ the curds…  So, when the opportunity arose to take a two and a half hour class on the subject of making both mozzarella and ricotta cheese, I jumped at it.

For those of you who read this and would like to attempt to make your own mozzarella, but are a bit overwhelmed, I really do understand.  However, it really is easy, so I will do my best to break the process down for you.

Continue reading

Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage

About a month ago, a dear friend of mine was working on his house, when the scaffolding on which he was standing broke and he tumbled to the ground resulting in a severely broken ankle.  The ER doctor and the orthopedic surgeon told him it was one of the worst breaks they had ever seen and was definitely going to need surgery, once the swelling went down.  Despite the fact that the surgery went well, he still has a long road ahead of him with restricted mobility and confined surroundings, so I have been trying to drop off food and a bit of cheer now and again, to hopefully help keep his spirits up.

Soon after his fall, I took over a ham, tomato and cheddar quiche which I discussed a few weeks ago.  I knew a lot of friends were dropping food off, so I thought this quiche would be a little bit out of the ordinary from the other dishes they might be receiving.  But when I started planning something else to drop by this week, I was having a hard time coming up with anything that sounded good, was semi inexpensive to make (seeing as how I am currently between jobs) and would be easy to reheat.  I knew that someone had already brought them lasagna, which tends to be an old standby for me on such occasions, and for some reason there wasn’t a soup recipe that was really speaking to me at the moment, other than corn chowder, which I figured might be a bit rough to digest on all those pain meds.  So, in some round about way I settled on baked ziti with spicy Italian sausage.

Ever since Nate and I traveled to Florence, Italy in the spring of 2010, I have been craving the unbelievably delicious and melty baked ziti that we had at this little delicatessen type Italian lunch cafe.  Off the beaten tourist path a bit, this little shop was nearly impossible to step into upon first arrival, because it was so packed with locals.  In fact you had to be quite assertive to get in the door before someone else would rush in ahead of you.  But once you got in and up to the counter display case, you found every Italian antipasti delicacy that you could possibly want, along with paninis made to order, and two pasta dishes which changed daily, amongst a great many other things.  If you ordered the pasta special you were handed a heaping plate of pasta, that could easily serve two, and a side of bread for 2 Euro.  A steel for central Florence as far as we were concerned!  And while this plate of pasta could serve two, it was so unbelievably delicious in the simplest most traditional way, that Nate and I each had to have our own, because this was simply too good to share.

Continue reading