My father gave me a gift of gourmet groceries this week. All were delicious (free range chicken, fresh asparagus, rices). But the most delicious item was some ricotta Salata.
Ricotta Salata is a hard to find cheese made from sheep's milk whey. The name sounds like ricotta that we are all familiar with - but ricotta in America is made from cow's milk. In Italy, it is made from sheep's milk and so it has a slightly different flavor.
Ricotta Salata is firm in texture, smooth and clean tasting. Some people think it has a nutty flavor. I think the dominant flavor is really the aftertaste, which is salty. The texture of the cheese is spongey, so it feels lighter than it appears. But, this texture leads to an ease in grating or cutting it up. (Similar in texture to feta cheese). It is delicious on its own, in salads or in pasta dishes. It is one of my favorite cheeses.
My father also gave me this recipe -- and the combination of flavors, olives, garlic, olive oil, wilted spinach and Ricotta Salata -- well it is divine.
This recipe is super easy to make.... You cook the pasta and while the water heats and the pasta cooks, you prepare the rest. Chop the garlic and olives, measure the oil, wash the spinach, grate the cheese. Yum.
The heat from the pasta lightly cooks the spinach making it tender and still nutritious. A sprinkle of freshly ground pepper and you have a delicious meal.
6 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup olives, chopped
1 pound pasta
10 oz baby spinach leaves, washed
6 oz grated (or chopped) Ricotta Salata
Boil water for pasta and salt. Cook pasta according to directions.
Combine oil, olives and garlic in a small bowl.
When pasta is cooked, drain pasta and return to pot.
Add spinach leaves to pasta, stir and cover pot for 30 seconds.
Remove lid and add olive mixture.
Dispense into individual bowls and top with Ricotta Salata. Grind pepper on top, as desired.