Ricotta with nutmeg?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by laretta, Dec 9, 2011.

  1. laretta

    laretta

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    Hello, I am new here but I have searched internet for answers until I arrived here.

    First time ever making lasagna and I found a recipe with 6,000 ratings of 5 star.  Most everyone who posts says to add nutmeg to the ricotta but nobody says how much!!  The recipe calls for 16 oz. ricotta but I am making a double batch.  Can someone please tell me what might be the appropriate amount of nutmeg (per 16 oz)?  I only have dried powder nutmeg. 

    Thank you for reading my request.  :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2011
  2. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    A. Buy whole nutmeg and grate it as you need it. The difference is astonishing!

    B. Recipes are guides, I'd start with, oh maybe, a half teaspoon and taste, add more if necessary.

    Depending on how old your ground nutmeg is, you may need two or even three times the amount.
     
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  3. laretta

    laretta

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    Hello Chef McCracken,

    I will buy whole and grate it even if I had bought the ground dried nutmeg last week.  I trust you when you say the difference between fresh graded and ground dried is astonishing and, unless there is ever a reason I would want ground dried nutmeg instead of whole, the dried is permanently off my list.  Can fresh ground always be a replacement for the dried?

    Thank you very much for responding. :)
     
  4. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    In my opinion, fresh grated is ALWAYS better than ground.
     
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  5. volpe

    volpe

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    Fresh nutmeg is extremely strong! But in general nutmeg will really help bring out the creaminess of the ricotta.
     
  6. laretta

    laretta

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    Thank you Volpe, for responding!

    If stronger than ground, and the recipe states ground, by what ratio would I adjust?  Three quarters as much?  The measurements might be difficult depending upon how coarse the grind, right?  And do household graters work with whole nutmeg?  I have one with four sides of varying coarseness.

    As an aside, I am a software programmer so I think in terms of measured syntax and absolutes.  I suppose I will need to learn to let go and 'go with the force' and what my mouth tells me but I do not trust my opinion yet.
     
  7. siduri

    siduri

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    In a lasagna, unless you're feeding an army, you want a pinch or two - half teaspoon seems too much - subtle goes much better than strong.  Grate it directly into the ricotta, and grate it till there is a piece missing of about the size of a large lentil or two. 
     
     
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  8. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    As ricotta is being used insteadof the bechamel, it is seasoned with the nutmeg the bechamel would have been seasoned with.
     
  9. laretta

    laretta

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    Hi phatch!  Thank you for responding!

    Well, I have read about bechamel and I have saved informed about it and it all discusses in generalities and I have yet to find a recipe that provides an exact ingredient list (but I am just beginning my researching).  What I have read says that 'true bechamel' does not use nutmeg.  Well, here's the quote but I cannot tell you where I got it since I've been cramming information at a high rate:

    "Bechamel is a white sauce. The addition of nutmeg and other non standard additives appears to be an American variation. Whether or not it would or could still be called bechamel with such variations I will leave to better thinkers than I."

    I got this somewhere that two chefs were discussing history and all kinds of things above my head.  So I am afraid that it won't help me determine quantity of nutmeg to add, in my current fairly-ignorant state.
     
  10. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    For a standard 9x13 pan of lasagna, a pinch or two is plenty.
     
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  11. laretta

    laretta

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    Hello siduri,

    I appreciate you joining in helping me.  This helps me understand how much!  And I have decided that I am going to begin tasting all of my new spices so I know what they taste like.  That will probably help me determine how much to use.  I already discovered that cayenne goes a very long way. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/eek.gif
     
  12. laretta

    laretta

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    That does help!  Thank you!  9 x 13 is exactly what I am making but I have doubled the ricotta to 32 oz instead of the 16 oz.  So would it be a pinch or two for 16 oz or for 32 oz?
     
  13. laretta

    laretta

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    LOL, the quote I gave I realize I got from this website in one of my searches for the answer to the nutmeg question but I could not tell you who said.  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif
     
  14. siduri

    siduri

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    Whether "true bechamel" uses nutmeg is kind of irrelevant.  What is "true" bechamel anyway?  Who decided?  Is it the first bechamel?  Is it some famous chef's bechamel?  and if someone likes it with a "non standard ingredient" what are we to do?  And what if the dish being made is not in the French tradition but is Greek or Italian?  They all do bechamel in a different way.  And we should be grateful or everyone would be making the same food in the same way and what would really be the point of cooking forums???!!! 

    Ada Boni, Talismano della felicita', one of the standard texts of italian cooking, gives nutmeg as one of the ingredients of besciamella (bechamel in italian).  Artusi's "balsamella" doesn't.  Many Italian besciamella/balsamella sauces have nutmeg.  What do italians care about what the "real" bechamel is?  Maybe it was invented in Italy, or in Greece, or who knows, maybe even in France.  Maybe it was invented in each place (it doesn't take a culinary genius to make a sauce of butter and milk thickened with flour!)  Maybe many housewives or personal chefs of ancient noblemen came up with the same or similar recipe over the years.  (By the way did anyone know that Leonardo Da Vinci was the head of the kitchen (top chef) to Ludovico il Moro in Milan, and invented all these machines for use in the kitchen.  He also, in his youth, he opened a restaurant with his friend.  There's a hilarious account of this somewhere - i can try to find it. )

    If you want to make lasagna with bechamel, then you want to put a little nutmeg.  DO NOT expect ANY italian text to give you the quantity.  Taste it.  It's supposed to be subtle.  They also put nutmeg in mashed potatoes by the way, and it's a very nice touch.  Is there some big-ego famous chef that says "true mashed potatoes" have no non-standard ingredients?  probably.  Let them eat their own dishes done exactly the same way every time then.

    As for exact quantities, i don;t know anyone here who makes lasagne with a written recipe - the cut off a chunk of butter, throw in some flour, let it bubble and then add milk, salt, nutmeg, maybe pepper.  stir, cook.  You can find a million recipes for bechamel.  You probably would need about three cups of bechamel for a 13 X 9 pan. 

    I just looked in ada boni's book and there are many recipes for lasagne - some with bechamel, some with ricotta (also bechamel), some with neither and just slices of mozzarella, some with mushrooms.  Every town probably has its recipe!  It's not a cake, it won;t fall, it requires no engineering or chemistry, you can fool around with it till you like it. 
     
  15. french fries

    french fries

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     Quote:
    That's a good (rethorical) question. 

    If you ask Escoffier, bechamel is made with veal and onions, sometimes even creme fraîche. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/eek.gif

    Mine only has flour, butter and milk, S & P and pretty much always grated nutmeg. 
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2011
  16. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    Nutmeg is strong, very aromatic.  Have you had it before?  In beschamel I tend to go heavy on the nutmeg.  I don't like it in plain spinach though and that's all the rage.  Nutmeg is one of those ingredients where you have to live and learn.  Try grating half a nutmeg into it and then decide if you liked later and act accordingly on your next lasagna.  You'll need a microplane grater.  Whole nutmeg can sit around for ages, as do peppercorns.  They instantly come alive when you grate or ground.