new vegetables of spring, the greenest peas, tiny,
tender fava beans, earthy beets, make companionable
partners with ricotta. Here, sugar snap pea salad with
ricotta cheese, mint and lemon.
of the ricotta in this country is probably baked into
lasagna. And that’s delicious.
ricotta aspires to so much more. Its fresh flavor shines
when treated lightly, its creamy texture soaring as well.
The new vegetables of spring — the greenest peas, tiny,
tender fava beans, earthy beets — make companionable
partners. It can go savory or sweet.
your relationship with ricotta is limited to enjoying it
baked into lasagna or manicotti, consider its many other
less a champion than cheese authority Laura Werlin, who has
written extensively about cheese (six books, including the
James Beard Award-winning "The All American Cheese and
Wine Book") and teaches regularly at the Cheese School
of San Francisco, extols ricotta’s versatility.
is what I like about ricotta: It can be a chameleon, and it
can be the star," Werlin says. "It can be a
conveyor of flavor; it can be the flavor itself."
has used it in brioche bread pudding and in ricotta cake; on
top of pasta and pizza; as a simple dessert, drizzled with a
little honey; with candied walnuts or almonds or toasted
pistachios. One of her favorite recipes is to mix ricotta
into a spring pea and basil puree to spread on crostini.
don’t taste the ricotta, but you sense it because you have
that creamy texture," she says. "The ricotta
lightens it and makes it a little more ethereal."
wherever you might think of using fresh goat cheese, you can
use ricotta, Werlin says.
key to the best flavors in any of these applications is the
same when making any dish that relies on the ingredients to
do most of the work: Buy the best you can find. In the case
of ricotta, look for a fresh aroma and taste and creamy
texture. (And, we would argue, whole milk ricotta to get the
full richness.) Traditionally, ricotta is made from whey
leftover from making another cheese, but it should still
taste of milk, Werlin says. Hand-dipped is a good phrase to
look for, she explains: "It is handled more gently; a
lightness to it that ricotta absolutely should have. It
shouldn’t be dense."
basket-drained ricotta almost quivers like panna cotta or a
custard. Get as close as you can (to that)," Werlin
makers with national distribution to seek out are Calabro
Cheese Corp., made in East Haven, Conn., and Lioni Latticini,
Brooklyn, N.Y. If you have a cheese shop nearby, it might
carry ricotta from an artisan maker. Italian grocery stores
and supermarkets with a good cheese selection often have
fresh, hand-dipped ricotta.
you bring it home, try it in one of the recipes or ideas
here, or perhaps the simplest way is the best. This one from
Werlin: Just drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle
with finely chopped fresh basil or rosemary. "It’s
just a way to get the full essence of the ricotta and gussy
it up a little," she says. "Maybe sea salt on
Werlin offers a host of ways to use ricotta. Among them:
fresh melon: Mix ricotta with a little sugar and a little
milk to extend it, then dollop it on along with fresh mint.
pizza: Dollop it on. It will soften in the oven, fanning
out, but won’t melt. Mix in fresh chopped herbs first, if
vegetables: Steamed asparagus, with a little extra-virgin
olive oil and pepper. Also zucchini, fava beans and
artichokes; even thinly shaved raw artichokes. Add another
cheese for saltiness, if you like, such as pecorino or
from other cooks:
Stuff pancakes with ricotta, says Anna Della Conte in her
new book, "Italian Kitchen."
Crostini: The small slices of toasted bread are a frequent
vehicle for ricotta. "Franny’s Simple Seasonal
Italian" has two ideas: ricotta with olives and
pistachios, and roasted cherry tomatoes with ricotta. A
breakfast crostini from Michele Scicolone’s new "The
Italian Vegetable Book": Whip ricotta with honey,
spread on the crostini, and top with fresh halved figs and
toasted sliced almonds.
Dip: One of our favorite recipes is a simple ricotta and
herb dip: Place 1 cup drained ricotta in a bowl; stir in 2
tablespoons finely chopped herbs (a mix of any of these:
basil, thyme, parsley, chives), 1 to 2 tablespoons fruity
extra-virgin olive oil, and coarse salt and freshly ground
pepper to taste. Allow to rest at least 30 minutes for
flavors to mingle. Serve with crudites, crackers or toasted
SNAP PEAS WITH RICOTTA, MINT AND LEMON
from "Franny’s Simple Seasonal Italian"
(Artisan, $35) by Andrew Feinberg, Francine Stephens and
Place 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta in a fine mesh sieve lined
with cheesecloth or a clean dish towel; set over a bowl and
refrigerate overnight. The ricotta will lose much of its
water content and thicken.
Whisk the drained ricotta in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons
extra-virgin olive oil until smooth. Whisk in kosher salt
and pepper, to taste. Continue to whisk until the ricotta is
fluffy and creamy.
Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large
bowl with ice water, and salt it generously. Blanch 2 cups
sugar snap peas (about 1/2 pound) in the boiling water until
bright green, 30-40 seconds. Drain; immediately transfer
peas to the ice bath. Let stand until chilled. Drain the
peas; spread them on a clean dish towel to dry.
Combine the peas in a bowl with 2 tablespoons thinly sliced
green onions, 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf
parsley, 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped mint, 2 tablespoons
fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and
pepper to taste.
Smear 2 tablespoons ricotta on each of four plates. Mound
1/2 cup of the peas on each plate. Drizzle with more olive
oil and a sprinkle of salt.
recipe is adapted from one by Melissa Roberts at
Epicurious.com. She serves it with roasted grapes (2 cups
seedless red grapes, halved, tossed with 1 tablespoon melted
butter and 2 tablespoons sugar, roasted at 425 until tender,
10 to 12 minutes). We’ve opted for yellow raisins inside
the pudding instead. Also, we used cookie crumbs to coat the
pie plate instead of the breadcrumbs she calls for.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Soak 1/2 cup yellow raisins in hot
water (or sweet marsala or rum) to cover until plumped,
about 15 minutes. Butter a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate
with about 1 tablespoon melted butter; spread 1 to 2
tablespoons fine cookie crumbs in plate to coat.
Blend 1 2/3 cups whole-milk ricotta (15 ounces), 2 large
eggs, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 3
tablespoons sugar in a blender until very smooth, about 2
minutes. Stir in the drained raisins and 2 tablespoons
coarsely chopped toasted pistachios. Pour batter into pie
plate. Bake in middle of oven until puffed, golden, and just
set, about 25 minutes. Cool pudding on a rack.
from "Tasty" by Roy Finamore. We’ve added thyme
for the freshness it brings.
Heat a large pot of well-salted water to a boil; stir in 1
pound ziti or penne rigati. Cook until al dente.
Meanwhile, whip 1 pound ricotta and 2 ounces fresh goat
cheese (both cheeses should be at room temperature) together
with a fork in a large serving bowl.
Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the cooking water.
Return pasta to the pot. Stir in the cheese mixture, 2
tablespoons unsalted butter and 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh
thyme leaves; season with coarse salt and plenty of freshly
ground pepper. Stir in enough of the pasta water — a
little at a time — to make a smooth sauce. Serve with
grated pecorino cheese.
PEA, RICOTTA AND BASIL CROSTINI
from "The All American Cheese and Wine Book" by
Laura Werlin, who writes: "The bright green color of
this spring-themed spread provides the visual cue for its
fresh, clean taste."
In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon salt to
a boil. Add 1 1/2 cups shelled peas, preferably English
(about 1 1/4 pounds, or use large frozen peas); cook, 4
minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the
cooking process. Pat dry.
Combine the peas, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 2 tablespoons
olive oil, 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese and salt and pepper
in a food processor. Process until creamy. Taste and add
salt or pepper as needed.
Cut a sourdough baguette into sixteen 1/4-inch-wide slices.
Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and spray or brush
them on both sides with olive oil. Broil until the bread is
a light golden-brown color, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn slices and
repeat. (Watch carefully, as bread can burn easily). Remove
from broiler and let cool. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the
pea mixture on each slice of bread. Sprinkle with more
16 crostini, 4 servings