cooking · Dinner

Beet Pesto with Handmade Ricotta Cheese

An adaptation of a recipe from Whole Living magazine for a vibrant beet pesto, topped with handmade ricotta style cheese. The cheese isn’t technically ricotta, rather more like a queso fresco. Either way, it is easy to make and tasty. I found the method for it on The Food Lab and he makes it so easy even I couldn’t mess it up – and I used 2% milk, not even whole milk. Don’t expect the heavy and wet ricotta in stores, but rather a lighter and drier cheese. It would work well for any Italian or Mexican dish where the cheese is a garnish on top that doesn’t need to melt.

Handmade Ricotta-style Cheese


  • 2 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt


Add the ingredients in a microwave-safe quart glass measuring cup. Microwave on high for 2 to 4 minutes (mine took 3 minutes), till the milk is bubbling on the sides and reads between 165 and 180° with a thermometer inserted. Stir the mixture for 5 to 10 seconds. Place a very fine wire mesh strainer over a large bowl, slowly pour the mixture in, allowing the water to pass through. Discard the water and let the strainer sit over the bowl until it has finished draining (I left mine out for 30 minutes). The cheese will firm up the longer it drains. If you do not have a fine enough mesh strainer, line a regular strainer with cheesecloth. As an example, I have a large mesh strainer that is fine enough quinoa won’t fall through when rinsing, that is what you need.

Makes a shy ½ cup.

Beet Pesto


  • 1 bunch beets, about 1 lb
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil, olive or sunflower
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • ½ cup raw walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 13.25 ounce package multi-grain or whole wheat spaghetti


Preheat oven to 425°. Tear off two sheets of aluminum foil the length of a large rimmed baking sheet. Make a cross shape on top of the baking sheet, example: [+], trim off the beet leaves and scrub well. Place the beets on the foil, pull up the sides to make a bowl and add the oil and salt, roll the beets in it. Fold up and pinch the foil tightly. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until fork tender. Remove, open the foil and let cool a bit.

Trim the tops and bottom, rub off and discard the peels. Add the beets, walnuts, tomatoes and red pepper to a food processor bowl. Process until finely chopped.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil, add pasta and cook for time on package. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, drain pasta. Add ¾ cup of the reserved water to the beets, process until smooth, adding the remaining water if needed. Toss the sauce with the hot pasta. Dish up and top with the handmade ricotta.

Serves 4.


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