Papesse is just getting better and better! She really is doing us proud – and believe it or not – we aren’t sick of eating pizza every week yet… I felt she deserved a better home than the tupperware she rapidly outgrows whenever we take her out for a ‘refresh’. A fruitful trip to the charity shop now sees her housed in a pretty terracotta pot that is not too big nor too small, but just right.
The pizza this week is a classic combo of spinach and ricotta. Whilst I did attempt to make ricotta more than a few times in the tropics, I couldn’t believe I’d waited this long to try it when living in amidst the lush pastures of Devon. Actually, it was an advert in the local paper from a local dairy farm that was willing to deliver it’s wares to our village that kicked me into gear. They’ll even give you raw milk! I tied the muslin to the tap, impatiently watching the whey dripping away to reveal beautiful creamy curds. Definitely as good as any you can buy (perhaps not in Italy). I’m tempted to hunt out some rennet and try my hand at cheesemaking proper…
RECIPE: PIZZA RICOTTA E SPINACI
Depends how hungry you are!
(We use a tin of peeled tomatoes for two 12” thin pizzas)
A chunk of Papesse
For the tomato sauce
A slug of olive oil
1 tin peeled plum tomatoes
A crushed clove of garlic
A sprinkling of salt and a grinding of pepper
For the ricotta
A pint of full cream milk
Half a pint of double cream
A sprinkling of salt
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, cider vinegar or lemon juice
For the topping
A colander full of spinach
A crushed clove of garlic
A pinch of nutmeg
METHOD: Making ricotta is easy and a good introduction to cheesemaking. Heat up the milk and cream in a pan with a pinch of salt until it is just coming to the boil. You don’t want it to boil, you just want to scald it. Then add your ‘acid’, namely the vinegar or lemon juice to the pan and leave for fifteen minutes. The curds should start to separate straight away. If nothing happens try adding more vinegar or lemon juice. Pour the curdled mess into a muslin strained and allow to drain for a couple of hours or even overnight for a firmer texture.
When you are ready to make your pizza, preheat your oven to its highest setting.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the crushed garlic for a couple of seconds before adding the tinned tomatoes. I always use peeled plum tomatoes and not chopped tomatoes as find there is more flesh making for a less watery consistency. It’s easy to mush them up with the back of a wooden spoon when cooking. Cook the tomatoes down over a medium heat (about ten minutes) until the water has evaporated and you are left with a thick sauce. I think tinned varieties have improved in quality as I always used to add a pinch of sugar to balance out the metallic taste, but no longer find this necessary so just season with salt and pepper. If you find your tinned tomatoes lacking in flavour, you can add a squeeze of tomato puree.
Pat dry the spinach after washing and fry in a pan with a splash of olive oil and the crushed garlic until wilted. Add a pinch of nutmeg and seasoning. When cool, squeeze out any excess water in the fist of your hand.
Dust the worktop with a little flour and flatten the ball of dough, knocking the air out of it with your fingertips. Stretch the pizza dough until it is as thin as possible mounding the dough up slightly around the edges. You can use a rolling pin to start it off, but stretching by hand really helps the texture.
Smear on the tomato sauce right up to the edges and scatter over the spinach and ricotta as evenly as possible. When topped to perfection, transfer to a pre-heated baking sheet (I assemble the pizza on a sheet of greaseproof paper as don’t have a paddle and more importantly, am clumsy) and cook for about 6-8 minutes until crisp and golden. You’ve got to watch them, as the timing depends on your oven and the thinness of your base.
Remove, drizzle with a splash of chilli oil – cut into wedges and enjoy with a glass of vino.