I’m not exaggerating. This tofu will blow your mind. I can prove it.
Last summer, as a software-engineer-slash-reporting intern at The Philadelphia Inquirer, I pitched a crazy project: a complete, interactive, online guide to eating vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free in Philly. I knew that food for people with weird dietary restrictions was the only kind of food I might have more authority on than their famous restaurant critic, Craig LaBan. Somehow they accepted the pitch, with the modification that I wasn’t “reviewing” restaurants, just reporting on them. (Turns out newspapers only let food critics criticize food — the right to start feuds with local chefs was reserved for LaBan — this was probably a good thing.)
So I did a lot of research, visited a lot of restaurants, billed some crazy dishes to the Inquirer and photographed a lot of food. Philly has an incredible vegan scene; the restaurant Vedge pioneered fine vegan cuisine in the U.S. around 30 years ago. I found hits and misses: a vegan tuna sandwich (as bad as it sounds); the Impossible burger with dairy-free gouda cheese (imcredible); vegan biscuits and chipped beef (odd but comforting); German chocolate cake and other cupcakes free of dairy, gluten, soy, eggs, and nuts (you’d be amazed)…
But only a few select places, Vedge and sister restaurant V Street included, really garner [a wide audience] / [diners from all dietary persuasions]. “Charlie was a sinner.” is one of those places, and I’m telling you, the drinks are half the reason and this ricotta is the other half. It stood out in my research as beloved by allll the diners, even the ones who can eat ricotta without a moral qualm nor a gas attack. I went with a friend and we both loved it. I wanted to know how to make it.
And now, not only do I — and in just a few lines, you too! — know how to make this transformative dish, you know how to make a better version of it. Sorry, Charlie. Thanks, Minimalist Baker.
Besides being delicious, this ricotta is also fairly healthy. Per half cup, it has roughly the same amount of calories as regular ricotta (thanks to the olive oil) but 3g more fiber and 12% of your DV of calcium.
You can dip crudités and crunchy toasted sourdough in it — it’s that good– or, of course, use it in your dairy-free lasagna and stuffed pasta dishes.
So here is the recipe — get ready….
The World’s Best Ricotta
- 1 12- ounce block extra-firm tofu (drained and pressed dry for 10 minutes) // if you don’t know how to do this, see first step for prep instructions
- 2 medium lemons, juiced // about 8 tbsp.
- 1/2 cup fresh basil (finely chopped) // about 20 leaves
- 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil // garlic infused olive oil is great here
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/4 cup vegan parmesan cheese (definitely optional, but makes a substantial difference)
- If you haven’t already, press the tofu: drain the water out of the tofu package, then place the tofu block between two clean kitchen towels or several folded paper towels.
- Place a heavy object, like a textboook, on top of the tofu for around 10-15 minutes. It’s fine to drain the tofu for longer.
- Add all tofu filling ingredients to a food processor or blender and pulse to combine, scraping down sides as needed. Continue until mixture is semi-pureed with bits of basil still intact.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt and pepper for flavor, nutritional yeast for cheesiness, and lemon juice for brightness.
Notes: Modified from the tofu ricotta used in this Minimalist Baker recipe