It's delicious, but what is it?
September 8, 2010 7:39 AM   Subscribe

Help me approximate an amazing ricotta-featuring cheese sauce!

I am attempting to re-create a pasta dish for someone's birthday, from their favorite restaurant in the city we no longer live in. (For extra bonus points, if anyone has been to Guido's in Providence, RI, I am talking about the white sauce in their "Fettuccine sauce" pasta.) Most importantly, the sauce has a distinctive grainy texture beyond your typical homemade cheese sauce. It's at least partly ricotta-based (and "not an alfredo", says the waitress), and very creamy. Also very garlicky. Does this sauce have a name?

Googling gets me mostly lasagna recipes and 'diet alfredo' which this is decidedly not, so I turn to you! I'd love to hear your cheese-sauce recipe suggestions, or even tips for incorporating ricotta into a white sauce. Will it explode? I can make a reasonable roux-based cheese sauce from scratch but this kind of innovation is a little beyond me.
posted by heyforfour to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
(and before you ask, the info above was what the waitress at the restaurant already shared with us when we asked about the sauce - she didn't give it a name, just "not alfredo, more of a cheese sauce")
posted by heyforfour at 7:42 AM on September 8, 2010

"Grainy" sounds like "white sauce" to me - thin (maybe a cup of milk added to tablespoon of flour cooked in a tablespoon of butter), so adding ricotta (and some parmiggiana regiano, maybe?) wouldn't make it too thick to use... A more traditional version might be to mix the ricotta in to melt it, then add some milk to get the right consistency, again with some parm for flavor (ricotta on it's own would be pretty... boring...).

If the restaurant is still around, you might try calling and asking to speak to a chef. I've only done it once - for a pasta sauce I had on vacation - but they were very good natured about giving me the basic ingredient list...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 7:50 AM on September 8, 2010

I had something like this at a pizzeria once (we used it as a breadstick dripping sauce). I never did catch then ame of it.

Looking up "Ricotta and Garlic sauce" brings up something that sounds to me like it's very close to what you're looking for.

Roasted Garlic-Ricotta Sauce

* 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/3 cup chopped roasted garlic
* 1/4 cup chopped roasted shallots
* 1/2 cup white wine
* 3 cups vegetable stock
* 3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons water
* 1/2 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
* 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
* 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
* 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Stir in the roasted garlic and shallots and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook until reduced and the pan is almost dry, about 3 to 5 minutes, to concentrate the flavors of the sauce. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Mix in the cornstarch mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.

Place the ricotta cheese and about 1/3 cup of the garlic mixture into a blender. With the blender on, slowly pour in the remaining sauce through the opening in the blender lid; the sauce will thicken.

Transfer the sauce back into the saucepan and stir in the basil, oregano, salt and pepper.

Use the sauce immediately, or cool quickly by setting in a bowl of ice and water. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or freeze for about 1 month.
posted by royalsong at 7:54 AM on September 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think it's simpler than you think. Color some garlic in butter. Turn the just-shy-of-al-dente pasta into the skillet with the garlic; add a scoop of ricotta, parm, herbs, and salt. Loosen with a little pasta cooking water to help the cheese coat the noodles.

You could push this with a dose of heavy cream in the skillet if you're looking for something *really* creamy, but you will be surprised by how much the ricotta breaks down.

Very fresh, sweet ricotta will make a huge difference in the quality of the finished sauce.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:12 AM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to chime in to note that ricotta in itself is grainy - that's probably where the texture is coming from. And I think royalsong and peachfuzz are on the right track.
posted by jocelmeow at 8:56 AM on September 8, 2010

Make the ricotta from scratch.

2 ingredients = 2 easy!

1/2 buttermilk to 1/2 Milk. In a clean pot. Raise temperature until curds form. Some recipes say 170 degrees fahrenheit, but I'm pretty sure I never go that high. Let the curds form. Simmer. More curds form...

Strain the whole thing in a colander w/ double layer of cheese cloth, a rinsed out tea towel, or whatever you've got. Season with salt. (Save the whey if you're into that.)

The whole process takes about 30 minutes!!


For the sauce I would make a bechamel w/ garlic.... add in the ricotta and parmesan cheese to taste. I might go for some romano and/or asiago cheese, too.


Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:04 AM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm with jbenben -- the first thing that came to my mind was a bechamel sauce with ricotta and romano and garlic. One of the ways to get a really garlicky flavor is to grate the garlic using a microplane instead of chopping it. It will almost disappear into the sauce, and infuse everything with a huge garlic flavor.
posted by shamash at 9:20 AM on September 8, 2010

(I should note that my very Italian aunt makes a similar sauce quite often -- she roasts the garlic and uses a whole head of it for a sauce made with two cups of milk and a pound of ricotta.)
posted by shamash at 9:23 AM on September 8, 2010

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