I was lucky enough to go on a tour recently of Bellwether Farms sheep creamery. The Callahan family has been making a variety of dairy products using both sheep and cow’s milk for almost twenty years on the property. Some of their most popular offerings are ricotta, creme fraiche and fresh and aged Italian style cheeses such as pepato and crescent.
During my visit, cheesemaker Liam Callahan was making a batch of ricotta in two 250-gallon steam kettles. Here is the moment the mixture started to form curds.
The ricotta is ladled into baskets and left to drain before packaging.
The sheep milk ricotta (they make jersey cow milk version as well) is luscious and creamy without a hint of the grittiness often found in commodity ricotta. Once home, I set about creating a simple pasta that highlights this delicate cheese and incorporates the bounty of spring produce at the market now.
Bow tie pasta is cooked with shelled English peas and asparagus then drained – be sure to save a little pasta water for the sauce!
The drained pasta is mixed with the veggies, Meyer lemon zest, ricotta and grated Parmesan. A splash of pasta water creates just the right texture while the ricotta melts in to the ingredients resulting in a light, creamy sauce.
Spring Pasta with Sheep’s Milk Ricotta
1/2 lb. farfalle pasta
1 c. shelled English peas
1 cup asparagus, woody ends broken off, cut in 1″ pieces
1 heaping teaspoon of Meyer lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and more for serving
1/2-12 oz. basket of Bellwether sheep milk ricotta
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of fiercely salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and peas, stir and set your timer for 7 minutes. When the timer goes off, add the asparagus and set the timer for 4 minutes. Taste the pasta and vegetables for doneness then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water as you go. Put the drained pasta and veggies back in the pot and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine and add a little pasta water, if necessary, to loosen the dish and create a saucy texture. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Divide amongst plates and pass extra Parmesan for the top. Yield: 4 servings