Louella Hill first came to F&W's attention a few years ago, when she was rescuing Rhode Island's farming system by linking small growers with corporate customers through the organization she founded, Farm Fresh Rhode Island. Now she's switched to a different passion: cheesemaking. I recently chatted with Hill to learn about Narragansett Creamery, the operation she and Mark Federico started in 2007. Afterward, I talked with local chef Champe Spiedel of Persimmon, who is serving Hill's fantastically creamy and naturally sweet-tasting ricotta in an ingenious way.
How did you get into making cheese?
LH: "I took a year off while I was attending Brown University to make Pecorino Toscano just outside of Siena, Italy. I started out as a general farm hand at Spannocchia, then I moved over to the sheep farm next door to work with the cheesemaker—that was when I realized how cool cheesemaking is."
How did Narragansett Creamery come about?
LH: "I paired up with Mark Federico, who had been making mozzarella curd and shipping it wholesale to restaurants out-of-state. Now we're making cheeses using hormone- and antibiotic-free milk from a co-op of dairy farmers in eastern New York state, and selling them locally."
What do you think sets your ricotta apart from other ricottas?
LH: "Most of what people know as ricotta is mechanically pumped. But we create it the old-fashioned way: We heat milk in a kettle and add the tiniest touch of salt and vinegar. Then, using slotted spoons, we ladle the curds into cups and let them drain overnight. Because they're ladled and not pumped mechanically, the texture of the ricotta is different. It's much lighter."
How do you serve the ricotta?
CS: "Right now, we're twirling fresh capellini pasta into a long spiral and piping it in the middle with ricotta and different herbs, like summer savory, tarragon, thyme and basil seeds. Essentially, it's a nest of capellini filled with ricotta—like a cannoli."