Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to make your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it works brilliantly as a much needed partner for the roots and roasteds and punchier flavours well be eating for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm vegetables. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to construct ricotta hence its Italian name, which means recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to promote little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow renders more ricotta. The sum of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end outcome will taste like a chip store. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive savor was induced in Italy use raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes require a certain type of ricotta. The kind you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started attaining my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might suppose. If thats a step too far though, you can induce the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre lucky enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any pancake or waffle will sit blithely next to a spoonful, and most fruit will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photo: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will depend on how you want to use it. To cook your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture seeps out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for just a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of ocean salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of sea salt and put over a medium hot. Let the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the boil when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 82 C-8 5C) remove from the heat, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds starting to kind. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and set this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drainage for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twist softly the fluid are due to be slightly milky in colouring. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a container, seal and store in the fridge and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this mixture of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby vegetables, but thumbs of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint foliages, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeezing of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoonful until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it really cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Taste for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a bit more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your choice of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take on ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter foliages to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them all over the ricotta. Squeeze over the juice of the orange and a bit more honey then put into the oven to cook for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, roughly chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roast for the last 5 minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the most wonderful pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turn al dente) and for my fund one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed foliages shredded and stems finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 big unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of boiling water on to boil and add got a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolled simmer, add your pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or until simply al dente.

2 Meanwhile, hot a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic beginning to colour, then add the chard stubbles and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the foliages have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splashing of the pasta water to the greens and mixture well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeezing over the juice. Take off the hot and savor for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, writer and author of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to stimulate your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it works brilliantly as a much needed partner for the roots and roasteds and punchier flavours well be feeing for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm veggies. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to stimulate ricotta hence its Italian name, which means recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to foster little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow makes more ricotta. The quantity of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end result will taste like a chip store. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive savor was attained in Italy utilizing raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes require a certain type of ricotta. The form you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started constructing my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might believe. If thats a step too far though, you can attain the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre lucky enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any flapjack or waffle will sit blithely next to a spoonful, and most fruit will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photo: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will depend on how you want to use it. To bake your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture oozes out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for just a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of ocean salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of sea salt and put over a medium hot. Permit the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the boil when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 82 C-8 5C) remove from the heat, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds had begun to form. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and put this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drainage for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twisting lightly the liquid are due to be slightly milky in colour. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a container, seal and store in the refrigerator and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this blend of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby vegetables, but fingers of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint foliages, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeezing of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoonful until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it truly cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Taste for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeezing of lemon juice and a bit more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your selection of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take on ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter leaves to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them all over the ricotta. Squeeze over the juice of the orange and a bit more honey then put into the oven to cook for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, approximately chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roast for the last five minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the most wonderful pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turn al dente) and for my money one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed foliages shredded and husks finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 big unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of boiling water on to simmer and add got a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolled simmer, add your pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or until just al dente.

2 Meanwhile, heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colour, then add the chard stalks and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the foliages. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the foliages have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splash of the pasta water to the greens and mixture well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeezing over the juice. Take off the heat and savour for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, writer and author of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Jacob Kenedy’s recipe for a Louisiana-style turkey gumbo ya ya | Christmas leftover recipes

A bowlful of Bayou: This swampy stew was stimulated for leftovers and long lazy days on the bayou. It takes a while to stimulate: a great excuse to crack open a cold one and get stirring …

Nowhere do folks throw a better party than in Louisiana. I should know- my grandmother Ginny was from there, a town called Plaquemine on Bayou Plaquemine, down which our family carried Spanish moss, shingles, lumber and petroleum from a swamp on to the Mississippi. Ginny knew how to party. One of her parties inspired Fellini to induce La Dolce Vita. She’s probably still partying now.

To party, you assemble all your people together, fill their beakers, fill their plates, fill their bellies and let a voodoo magical happen- that spell which falls when inhibitions fade-out and voices rise. In New Orleans, they call the noise of people enjoying themselves” gumbo ya ya”- many people talking at once, so you can’t pick out the words. That enchanted buzz is the hum of a well-oiled eatery engine- it attains my hair stand on end when I hear it and builds my heart incandescence. It is the audio of a happy dining room, the purr of hospitality. It is the first thing I look for when gauging our work at Bocca di Lupo and Plaquemine Lock and the most vital of all the reasons I became a chef.

The phrase” gumbo ya ya” itself derives from the food gumbo; ya ya is just people yakking. Gumbo is the swampy soup that defines Louisiana in a bowl- a concoction of mysterious murk, simple ingredients layered together so their flavors meld, but none is identifiable on its own.

And not only ingredients, but cultures too- Louisiana is a true lady of the night- everyone’s had some input. The term “gumbo” is said to derive either from the West African Bantu word for okra- ki ngombo; or the Choctaw Indian for the herb file– kombo. French roux forms the base- nearly every Louisiana recipe begins:” first you make a roux”- and further thickening arrives either from okra or from powdered sassafras leaf( AKA file ). German-style smoked sausage( with a French name, andouille) spikes many a gumbo pot.

The very origins of this stew are overshadowed in the depths of its cauldron – it’s likely to be the confluence and evolution of Acadian tricot, French bouillabaisse, Choctaw and African stews. The ingredients went with the settlers, the slaves and the slavers, but the origin of each seems virtually immaterial- the voices of each sound as one in the babble of a slowly bubbling gumbo pot.

We have similar shenanigans going on around our Christmas tables at home. Family gather, relax and create glasses and voices together. We eat turkey and cranberries from the Americas, dates from the Levant, candied fruits from Sicily, red cabbage stewed with apples like the Germans do, and strewed together meat and fruits and spices as our medieval forefathers did, and as they are continuing do in the Countries of the middle east. We drink wine, sweetened and spiced. And we talk gumbo ya ya.

Turkey gumbo ya ya

This pot of gumbo can easily be increased to stimulate more( excess maintains well, refrigerated or frozen ). It will cost 3-4 hours of your life, so have a drink ready. It’s worth it.

turkey The gumbo recipe is a good resting place for any leftovers- Christmas or otherwise. Photo: Howard Sooley

Serves 8
For the gumbo
Turkey leftovers- carcass, plus around 500 g of picked meat( most likely this will be the dark meat, itself a good thing)
5 celery sticks
3 medium onions
3 green peppers
4 garlic cloves, sliced
6 bay leaves
A spoonful of peppercorns
2 jalapeno peppers
Some seafood- 2 dozen raw shell-on prawns( shrimp ), or cooked shell-on crayfish( crawfish ), or 2 cooked smallish lobsters, or 2 medium( or one massive) cooked crab. Or all the above.
125ml vegetable oil
125g plain flour
400g smoked sausage, chunked( in Louisiana this would be Cajun andouille- utilize cooking chorizo or smoked Polish sausage instead, or cooked smoked ham hock, or bacon)
100g okra, sliced into 1-2cm rounds

To serve
1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced
1 soup-bowlful of cooked rice

1 Start the stock- set the turkey carcass in a large pot and barely encompass it with cold water. Bring to a simmer and keep it there. Chunk 2 of the celery sticks, 1 of the onions and 1 of the green peppers( seeds, stalks and all) and put them in the pot. Also add 2 sliced garlic cloves, 3 bay foliages, and the peppercorns. Keep simmering.

2 Dice the remaining veggies for the gumbo- cut the celery and onions into 5mm cubes( throw the trimmings into the stockpot ), seed and dice the green peppers and jalapenos the same way( seeds and stalk go into the pot as you go ). Keep the stock simmering.

3 Now, shell the seafood. Keep the shells. Keep the brown meat. If using lobster, cut the tail meat into chunks. If using shrimp, remove the veins. Set the shells into the stockpot, and keep it all simmering.

4 Make a roux: in a wide, heavy pot heat the oil and flour together over a medium heat. Stir, sip a brew, and stir again. It will start to turn a nut brown. Keep stirring- but carefully, this stuff is like magma and splashes could be serious. It’s getting darker, but you’re brave- maintain stirring until a fine white smoke rises, the flour precisely the colour of melted dark chocolate. Now you have to keep it from burning: slake it with the veg…

5 All at once, add the diced veggies( celery, onion, green pepper, jalapeno) to the roux along with the garlic and bay. Stir in well with a good pinch of salt- the roux will seize up and darken to the colour of solid dark chocolate.

6 Continue to stir over the hot for 10 -1 five minutes more, until the vegetables are fully softened and the roux has relaxed to a gloopy sauce.

7 Add the chunked sausage( or ham) and stir it in. Leave it over a low hot while you turn your attention back to the stockpot.

8 Taste your stock. Its been on the heat maybe 2 hours now, and should be delicious. Strain it, and skim off any fat. Measure out 1.2 litres and, in a few relatively rapid additions, stir it into the roux. Keep any excess stock in case the soup needs thinning afterward.( If you have leftover gravy from a roast, as long as it’s proper stuff, you can dispose of it now by adding it to the pot .)

9 Increase the hot to bring the soup back to a simmer, then reduce it to keep it there again. Add the okra and cook gently for 30 minutes more. The soup should be tending towards a certain thickness and body- not gloopy, but substantial.

10 Remember your turkey meat- the reason you started making such gumbo , now so long ago? Cut it into chunks, small enough to eat in the soup, and add it. Simmer long enough for the meat has begun to relax- probably 15 minutes, but this depends on your turkey, and what you did to it this morning.

11 If the soup isn’t for serving now, or you won’t employ all of it, cold or freeze anything that isn’t for feeing instantly. It can be brought back to a simmer before you add the seafood, which should be just before you eat. Otherwise …

12 Add the seafood. Simmer for 3 minutes- simply long enough to cook the shrimp or warm the crawfish/ lobster/ crab. Your gumbo is( eventually) ready. Serve it in bowl garnished with not too much hot cooked rice and a fair bit of spring onion. It should look like a swamp in a bowl, and savor of the bayou as much as truffles do the earth and oysters do the sea- it is the essence of Louisiana.

Jacob Kenedy is chef-patron of the is chef-patron of Bocca di Lupo restaurant and Plaquemine Lockrestaurants in London; @jacobkenedy

Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to construct your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it works brilliantly as a very much partner for the roots and roasteds and punchier flavours well be feeing for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm vegetables. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to build ricotta hence its Italian name, which means recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to foster little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow makes more ricotta. The sum of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end result will taste like a chip store. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive tasted was attained in Italy using raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes need a certain type of ricotta. The form you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started attaining my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might think. If thats a step too far though, you can induce the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre luck enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any flapjack or waffle will sit happily next to a spoonful, and most fruit will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will be dependent on how you want to use it. To cook your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture seeps out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for just a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of sea salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of ocean salt and put over a medium heat. Allow the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the simmer when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 82 C-8 5C) remove from the hot, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds starting to form. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and put this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drain for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twisting lightly the liquid should be somewhat milky in colour. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a container, seal and store in the fridge and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this blend of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby veggies, but thumbs of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint foliages, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeeze of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it genuinely cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Taste for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a bit more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your choice of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take over ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter foliages to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photo: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them around the ricotta. Squeeze over the juice of the orange and a bit more honey then put into the oven to cook for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, roughly chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roast for the last 5 minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the fastest pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turning al dente) and for my money one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed foliages shredded and stems finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 big unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of simmering water on to simmer and add a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolling simmer, add your pasta and cook in agreement with the packet instructions or until only al dente.

2 Meanwhile, hot a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colour, then add the chard stalks and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the leaves have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splash of the pasta water to the greens and mixture well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeeze over the juice. Take off the hot and taste for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and writer of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Anna Jones’ spring herb and yoghurt soup recipe | The modern cook

The modern cook: Wake up sleepy palates with this fresh herb soup or a crisp salad fortified with sorrel, roasted radish and lentil

The daffodils have been( and are almost gone) and the branches are heavy with flower: spring is here. In the kitchen, signs of winter are fading, although the greener things that spring will bring are still some style away. For render, its a no men land the hungry gap, as its often called.

Right now, soft herbs, wispy and green, fill my kitchen. From savoury flat-leaf parsley to the green tartness of the first sorrel, these first-of-the-year soft herbs, Im sure, are here to wake up our palates, lifting us out of the rhythm of wintertime cook and readying us for the fresh flavours and simple dishes that lie ahead.

I buy herbs once a week or so when they look good at the stores, and keep them alongside the milk bottles in the door of my fridge, standing in glasses with some cold water at the bottom like cut blooms. This doubles their lifespan( theyll maintain for about a week ), and their grassy fragrance is wafted around the room each time I open the fridge a casual reminder of their presence, which means they make their way into more of my cook than they might otherwise …

Herbs have been peppering everything I cook over the past few weeks: topping bright springtime stew, taking centre stage in soft herb omelettes, crowning gently spiced pilaf, and in pestos that sit under a golden slick of petroleum in the fridge.

Ive been buying bunches of sorrel an underused herb, likely because it can be hard to get hold of. If you can search it out, its lemony liveliness constructs your mouth water like no other food I know: if there was ever a herb to get us “re ready for” springtime, this is it. I love it in salads, cooked under eggs and wilted on toast. This week, I use it with lentils and radishes to make a pretty salad with some crispy-edged lentils.

Four soft, green herbs make an appearance in todays herb soup dill, tarragon, coriander and parsley but genuinely any combining of your favourites would work. This soup bridges the gap so perfectly: sunlight and optimistic in flavour with lemon and herbs, but backed up with butterbeans and yoghurt.

All herbs get their flavours from the essential petroleums within them, but fundamentally differ from each other in strength and structure. Softer herbs like coriander or basil often add more flavour when added at the end of a dish, whereas more traditional British herbs rosemary, sage, thyme, bay add more when theyre used during the cook. Whether or not you follow one of todays recipes, keep this in mind if and when you decide to infuse a meal with herbal notes. Springtimes soft herbs need little( or nothing) by way of cooking to do their very best in a meal.

Spring herb and yoghurt soup( main picture)

Just about the perfect bowlful for this space between winter and spring. You can use any soft herbs here only make sure you balance a more neutral herb, such as parsley, with a stronger one such as tarragon( the most powerful the flavour the less of that herb you will need ). You require quite a gentle stock for this: if you are using cubes or powder then a cube or 1 tsp of powder will be plenty in 1 litre of water.

Serves 4
Olive oil, for frying
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
small bunch of dill, fronds and stubbles separated
small bunch of tarragon, foliages and stubbles separated
1 bunch coriander, leaves and stalks separated
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stubbles divided
400g tin butter beans, drained
1 litre vegetable stock( see note above)
4 tbsp plain yoghurt
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and black pepper
Sumac, to serve

1 Heat 1 tbsp petroleum in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and celery and fry for about five minutes, stirring from time to time, or until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and spices, then cook for a further 2-3 minutes, or until the pan reeks aromatic.

2 Roughly chop the herb stalks, then add them to the pan along with the butterbeans and the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes, or until the husks have softened.

3 Allow to cool a little, then whizz with a stick blender in the pan until you have a smooth soup. Add the yoghurt, most of the herb leaves( reserving a few for the top of the soup) and whizz again, until smooth.

4 Add the lemon juice and taste, adjusting the seasoning with more salt or pepper. Ladle the soup into bowl and top with a sprinkling of sumac and a few herb leaves.

Sorrel, roasted radish and crispy lentil salad

If you cant get hold of sorrel, scrunch a couple of handful of spinach along with the juice of a lemon, then approximately shred it and scatter over the top in place of the sorrel. It wont be quite as fairly, but it will still savor great.

Sorrel, Sorrels lemony liveliness builds your mouth water like no other food I know, tells Anna Jones. Photo: Issy Croker for the Guardian

Serves 4
400g radishes, washed
400g new potatoes, washed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 tbsp honey
800g tinned puy lentils, drained in a sieve and dried on kitchen newspaper
50ml yoghurt
2 handfuls of sorrel foliages, rinsed and dried well( see above for an alternative)
Salt and black pepper

1 Set the oven to 200 C/ 400 F/ gas mark 6. Halve the radishes and potatoes. Tumble them on to a roasting tray with 1 tbsp of olive oil, half the lemon juice, some salt and the honey.

2 In a separate roasting tray, mix the lentils with a generous pinch of sea salt, another 1 tbsp of olive oil and the zest from the lemon.

3 Put the tray with the radishes and potatoes into the oven for 30 minutes, dedicating a shake once or twice during the course of its cook time. With 15 minutes to run, put the tray with the lentils into the oven. Roast until they are crisp and beginning to blister; the radishes and potatoes should be soft and golden brown at the edges.

4 Meanwhile, stimulate the dressing by whisking the yoghurt with a little squeeze of the lemon and the olive oil. Season well with salt and black pepper, savour and add more lemon, if you like, then set aside.

5 Once the lentils and radishes are cooked, remove from the oven and mixture everything in rough layers on a large platter with the sorrel. Drizzle with the yoghurt dressing.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and author of A Modern Way to Eatand A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to make your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it works brilliantly as a much needed partner for the roots and roasts and punchier flavors well be feeing for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm veggies. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to stimulate ricotta hence its Italian name, which entails recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to promote little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow renders more ricotta. The quantity of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end result will taste like a chip store. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive savor was induced in Italy use raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes require a certain type of ricotta. The type you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started constructing my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might gues. If thats a step too far though, you can induce the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre luck enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any flapjack or waffle will sit merrily next to a spoonful, and most fruits will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will be dependent on how you want to use it. To bake your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture oozes out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for just a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of sea salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of sea salt and put over a medium hot. Allow the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the simmer when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 82 C-8 5C) remove from the hot, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds starting to sort. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and put this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drain for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twist lightly the liquid should be somewhat milky in colouring. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a container, seal and store in the refrigerator and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this combination of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby veggies, but fingers of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint foliages, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeeze of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoonful until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it actually cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Savor for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a bit more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your selection of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take on ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter foliages to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them around the ricotta. Squeeze over the juice of the orange and a little more honey then put into the oven to cook for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, roughly chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roasted for the last 5 minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the fastest pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turning al dente) and for my money one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed leaves shredded and stubbles finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of simmering water on to boil and add a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolling simmer, add your pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or until simply al dente.

2 Meanwhile, hot a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colouring, then add the chard stems and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the leaves have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splash of the pasta water to the greens and mix well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeezing over the juice. Take off the heat and savour for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and author of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to induce your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it works brilliantly as a much needed partner for the roots and roasteds and punchier flavours well be feeing for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm vegetables. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to make ricotta hence its Italian name, which means recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to foster little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow creates more ricotta. The quantity of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end result will savor like a chip shop. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive tasted was attained in Italy using raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes require a certain type of ricotta. The form you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started attaining my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might suppose. If thats a step too far though, you can attain the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre lucky enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any flapjack or waffle will sit blithely next to a spoonful, and most fruits will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photo: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will depend on how you want to use it. To cook your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture seeps out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for just a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of ocean salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of sea salt and put over a medium heat. Let the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the boil when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 82 C-8 5C) remove from the heat, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds starting to form. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and set this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drain for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twist lightly the liquid should be slightly milky in colouring. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a receptacle, seal and store in the fridge and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this mix of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby vegetables, but thumbs of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeezing of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoonful until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it genuinely cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Taste for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a little more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your selection of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take on ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter leaves to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them around the ricotta. Squeeze over the juice of the orange and a little more honey then put into the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, approximately chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roast for the last five minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the fastest pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turning al dente) and for my money one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed foliages shredded and stubbles finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of boiling water on to boil and add a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add your pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or until merely al dente.

2 Meanwhile, hot a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colour, then add the chard stalks and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the foliages have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splashing of the pasta water to the greens and mixture well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeeze over the juice. Take off the heat and taste for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and writer of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to make your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it works brilliantly as a very much partner for the roots and roasteds and punchier flavours well be feeing for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm vegetables. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to induce ricotta hence its Italian name, which means recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to foster little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow makes more ricotta. The sum of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end result will savour like a chip store. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive tasted was induced in Italy employing raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes need a certain type of ricotta. The kind you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started inducing my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might suppose. If thats a step too far though, you can make the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre luck enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any pancake or waffle will sit blithely next to a spoonful, and most fruit will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photo: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will depend on how you want to use it. To bake your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture oozes out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for just a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of sea salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of sea salt and put over a medium hot. Let the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the simmer when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 82 C-8 5C) remove from the hot, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds starting to sort. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and put this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drain for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twist lightly the liquid should be somewhat milky in colour. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a container, seal and store in the fridge and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this combination of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby veggies, but thumbs of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeeze of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it really cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Savor for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeezing of lemon juice and a bit more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your option of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take on ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter foliages to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them around the ricotta. Squeezing over the juice of the orange and a little more honey then put into the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, roughly chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roast for the last five minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the most wonderful pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turning al dente) and for my money one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed leaves shredded and stalks finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of boiling water on to boil and add a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add your pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or until only al dente.

2 Meanwhile, heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colour, then add the chard stalks and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the leaves have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splash of the pasta water to the greens and mixture well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeeze over the juice. Take off the heat and taste for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and author of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to build your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it runs brilliantly as a much needed partner for the roots and roasts and punchier flavours well be feeing for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm vegetables. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to induce ricotta hence its Italian name, which means recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to encourage little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow creates more ricotta. The sum of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end result will taste like a chip store. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive tasted was stimulated in Italy employing raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes need a certain type of ricotta. The type you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started building my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might believe. If thats a step too far though, you can build the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre luck enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any pancake or waffle will sit blithely next to a spoonful, and most fruit will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photo: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will depend on how you want to use it. To cook your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture seeps out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for just a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of ocean salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of sea salt and put over a medium heat. Allow the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the simmer when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it was necessary to 82 C-8 5C) remove from the heat, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds starting to sort. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and set this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drain for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twisting lightly the liquid should be somewhat milky in colour. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a container, seal and store in the refrigerator and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this combination of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby veggies, but fingers of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeezing of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it actually cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Savor for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeezing of lemon juice and a little more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your option of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take on ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter leaves to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them around the ricotta. Squeezing over the juice of the orange and a bit more honey then put into the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, approximately chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roasted for the last five minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the most wonderful pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turn al dente) and for my fund one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed foliages shredded and stems finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 big unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of boiling water on to simmer and add a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolling simmer, add your pasta and cook in agreement with the packet instructions or until only al dente.

2 Meanwhile, hot a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colour, then add the chard husks and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the foliages. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the leaves have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splashing of the pasta water to the greens and mixture well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeeze over the juice. Take off the heat and savour for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and author of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to induce your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it works brilliantly as a much needed partner for the roots and roasts and punchier flavors well be eating for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm veggies. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to build ricotta hence its Italian name, which entails recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to promote little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow creates more ricotta. The quantity of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end outcome will savor like a chip store. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive savor was attained in Italy employing raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes require a certain type of ricotta. The type you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started building my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might believe. If thats a step too far though, you can induce the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre lucky enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any flapjack or waffle will sit happily next to a spoonful, and most fruit will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photo: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will depend on how you want to use it. To cook your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture seeps out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for just a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of sea salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of ocean salt and put over a medium hot. Permit the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the boil when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 82 C-8 5C) remove from the hot, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds starting to form. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and set this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drain for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twisting softly the liquid should be somewhat milky in colour. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a receptacle, seal and store in the fridge and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this combination of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby veggies, but fingers of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeeze of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoonful until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it really cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Savour for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeezing of lemon juice and a bit more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your choice of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take over ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter leaves to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them around the ricotta. Squeezing over the juice of the orange and a little more honey then put into the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, approximately chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roast for the last five minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the most wonderful pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turning al dente) and for my fund one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed leaves shredded and stalks finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of boiling water on to boil and add a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add your pasta and cook in agreement with the packet instructions or until merely al dente.

2 Meanwhile, heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colouring, then add the chard stubbles and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the foliages. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the foliages have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splashing of the pasta water to the greens and mix well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeeze over the juice. Take off the hot and savor for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and author of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food