Making Cheese With Frank Bonanno

August 2009
If you've ever eaten at Luca d'Italia or Osteria Marco, you know that chef/owner Frank Bonanno has a way with cheese, which he makes fresh daily at both restaurants. This month, Bonanno is sharing his cheese-making secrets in a series of Saturday-afternoon classes (the next two of which are on Aug. 15th and 22nd) at Luca. I attended last week's class and learned how to make deliciously simple ricotta and fresh, firm mozzarella. The class also introduced me to Burrata, in which a thin layer of mozzarella is wrapped around a ball of ricotta to create a creamy, chewy appetizer that is ideally spread across a crunchy slice of grilled bread. Most of the ingredients for all three cheeses---whole milk, buttermilk, lemon, and heavy cream---are readily available at grocery stores. The one hard-to-find component is mozzarella curd; I found it for $9.99/pound at Marczyk's Fine Foods. The $45 class, in which Bonanno demonstrates the process, is followed by a summery three-course lunch with win. Tip: Although recipes (like the one for ricotta below) are given to class participants, the real value comes from watching Bonanno work, as his process deviates slightly from the written instructions. Also, note the wine selection: The Italian Rosé, Cantale Negroamaro Salento, is nearly perfect with the cherry tomato and fresh mozzarella penne. Ricotta (makes approximately 12 ounces) 2 quarts organic whole milk 5 lemons (1 cup lemon juice) 1 cup buttermilk 1 cup heavy cream ¼ cup heavy cream to fold in at the end (after the cheese has been hung and the moisture drained out) Pinch of salt Tools: citrus reamer, sauce pan, cheese cloth Preparation 1. Ream the lemons, set juice aside 2. Bring cream and whole milk to just below a boil (165 to 185 degrees) 3. Add lemon juice, buttermilk and salt---the mixture will curdle instantly 4. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stir until thick 5. Wrap in cheese cloth; knot the top and hang over kitchen sink to drain (it works well to hang it over the faucet) 6. Drain 24 hours (the mixture can be squeezed free of moisture much earlier). Whip in additional heavy cream until ricotta is the consistency of soft ice cream. To register for classes, call Christin Marvin, 303-525-1702, Luca d'Italia, 711 Grant St., 303-832-6600