Baked Pastured-Ricotta Ravioli

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Grass.  Idyllic, green, rolling pasture.  So simple and inviting.  It’s likely what comes to mind when one thinks of dairy cows.  Pasture season is from May to September.  In some places it can be much longer.  And the taste of pastured milk?  Delicious!   As many mothers know, the milk one produces is flavored by the foods one eats.  But not only does pastured milk taste better, it’s better for us.  How can one be sure one’s getting pastured milk during the pasture season?  Get to know one’s local dairy farmers, and buy organic at the supermarket.

This week’s featured ingredient is Organic Dairy.

Why Organic?
Thanks to input from concerned consumers, American Humane Association (AHA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the National Organic Standards require:

  • Animals to graze pasture during the grazing season, which must be at least 120 days per year. 1, 2, 3
  • Preventative health care practices such as adequate feed, nutritional supplements, sanitary housing and freedom of movement.
  • Medical treatment in cases of animal illness.
  • Access to outdoors and conditions that accommodate the natural behavior of the animal.
  • Appropriate clean and dry bedding.
  • Prohibition of persistent pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, synthetic growth or breeding hormones, GMOs and antibiotics. 4

Milk from pasture-raised organic cows has recently been shown to have significantly higher levels of nutrients vitamin E, Omega 3 essential fatty acids, beta carotene and other antioxidants than milk from conventional cows raised in confinement.  5, 6

This week’s recipe is Baked Pastured-Ricotta Ravioli.  We’re making ricotta with organic pastured milk, and tucking it inside little pasta pockets.  Dip into tomato sauce, and celebrate the fruits of the pasture!
Hints for Making Ricotta:  The shorter the draining time and higher fat the dairy, the  moister and creamier the cheese.   Save the drained whey for soups, and baked goods.  Use ricotta in our ravioli recipe or simply enjoy on toast, crowned with olive oil or jam.
Variations:  For a dairy-free version, substitute ricotta with mashed soft tofu sautéed in a little palm margarine.  For traditional ravioli, boil in salted water until tender and filling melted, instead of baking.

Baked Pastured-Ricotta Ravioli

Preparation Time:  2 hours

Yield: 4-8 servings

Ingredients:

Ricotta

4 cups organic whole milk
3/4 tsp salt
3T vinegar

Ravioli
1 cup ricotta
1/4 generous cup mozzarella cheese, grated
3 generous Tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
salt & pepper to taste
1 egg, whisked
1 package fresh pasta wrappers
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups tomato sauce

Equipment:

Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Bowl
Strainer
Cheese cloth or strong paper towels
Pot (heavy-bottomed works best)
Spoon
Fork
Baking sheet
Spatula
Optional: Pastry brush

Directions:

Ricotta

1.  Line strainer with cheese cloth/paper towel.  Place strainer over bowl.

2.  Heat milk and salt in pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching on bottom.

3.  When the milk begins to foam and steam, just before milk boils, remove from heat, and gently stir in vinegar.

4.  Let pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes as curds form.

5.  Gently pour mixture into lined sieve.  Cheese Cloth: Let drain 5 minutes.  Paper Towel: Let drain 30 minutes.

6.  Remove a spoonful of curds, and evaluate texture.  If too moist, continue to let drain until desired texture achieved.  Paper Towel: To expedite draining, one may remove paper towel and complete draining solely in sieve.

7.  Enjoy!  Place leftover ricotta in glass storage container.  Refrigerate up to one week.

Ravioli

1.  Preheat oven to 375F.

1.  Mix ricotta (above) and cheeses together in bowl.  Add salt & pepper to taste.

2.  Brush whisked egg onto wrapper and place 1 Tablespoon ricotta filling in center.

3.  Fold wrapper in half over the filling, and seal the edges with gentle firm pressure, removing any air inside.

4.  Brush ravioli lightly with olive oil, and place on baking sheet.

5.  Bake in preheated 375F oven 10-20 minutes until lightly browned.

5.  Meanwhile, heat tomato sauce in pot until warm.

6.   Place ravioli on plate, and sauce in small bowl.  Enjoy!

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