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Fried Ricotta with Strawberry Jam (c)2012

#7 Fried Ricotta with Strawberry Jam for Dessert

I’ve got creative ideas for cooking with ricotta during winter:

1.  Ricotta Crostini

My craving for ricotta all started because Nicole from Cooking After Five posted this picture of Toast with Ricotta, Sliced Bananas, Walnuts, and Honey. Crostini, whether sweet or savory, for breakfast, lunch, snack, or supper, is the easiest, simplest way to enjoy ricotta. To me, there is something decadent about spreading toasted bread with thick and granular ricotta. The texture is also great for toppings, which cling to the crostini rather than flying this way and that while you try to get it in your mouth. Try my Ricotta Crostini with House-Cured Salmon, Lemon Zest, and Dill or keep things simple like the Frankies by spreading ricotta on toasted bread and topping it with freshly ground black pepper, sea salt, and a drizzle of olive oil.

2.  Gnudi

This ricotta dumpling is like ravioli filling without the pasta surrounding it. Gnudi appeals to my taste for pasta without all the work and special equipment. A dough is made with ricotta, a bit of flour, and flavorings like herbs, greens, or other cheeses. It’s a comforting dish that’s great for a family supper (let the kids help shape the dumplings) or date night at home. Tomorrow I’ll be featuring a recipe for Gnudi with Greens, Rosemary & Aleppo Pepper inspired by Issue 19 of Jamie magazine.

3.  Lemon, Ricotta, Pine Nut Cake

How many times am I going to reference the iconic London River Cafe on this blog? I can’t help the fact that I love everything Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray ever did. Their cookbooks are endlessly inspiring to me, full of recipes that are simple and straightforward and focused on using the best ingredients. The recipe for Lemon, Ricotta, Pine Nut Cake (scroll down the page, you’ll find it) in Italian Two Easy looks like a golden baked cloud flecked with pine nuts. The batter is a mixture of ricotta, sugar, eggs, crème fraîche, lemon, and mascarpone. Bread crumbs are used for a fantastically rustic crust. Citrus is in season right now, and this lemony, fluffy cake is sure to please all.

4.  Winter Roasted Vegetable Salad with Ricotta Salata

In her book, Cheese: Exploring Taste and Tradition, Patricia Michelson (owner of the famous La Fromagerie) suggests ricotta salata, a salted, “hard cheese with a light crumbly texture,” is delicious sprinkled over roasted root vegetables. Take a variety of winter veg, cut into the same size wedges, and roast them with olive oil and thyme until caramelized. Pumpkin, squash, beets, parsnip, turnip, red onion, sweet potato, and carrot will all work well. Serve the roasted winter vegetables warm with shavings of ricotta salata.

5.  Baked Ricotta

Donna Hay’s recipe (in the 10th Birthday Collector’s Edition for iPad) for Parmesan Baked Ricotta with Marinated Olives is a perfect example of the easygoing, simple style of cooking that I love so much. She brushes a parchment square with oil, sprinkles it with Parmesan, and spreads out a mixture of fresh ricotta and grated ricotta salata atop (in a disc shape like a small pizza).  A little more Parmesan on top and then cover with another parchment square to form a parcel in which the ricotta bakes in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about half an hour. Serve the golden, puffy baked ricotta with olives, garlic, bay, chill, and lemon zest sautéed in olive oil. A more wintry version could include sun-dried tomatoes and rosemary.

6.  Ricotta Stuffed Cabbage

An encyclopedic volume of recipes, The Silver Spoon, is an endless source of ideas. The self-proclaimed “bible on authentic Italian cooking” stays true to the at once elegant and rustic cuisine Italy is famous for. I’ve passed over many recipes for ricotta stuffed cabbage, until I came across the beautifully photographed Ricotta and Savoy Cabbage Rolls in The Silver Spoon. Cabbage leaves are blanched then filled with a mixture of cooked Swiss chard, ricotta, eggs, and Parmesan. Tie the cabbage bundles with kitchen string, pour over tomato sauce, and cook in a Dutch oven atop the stove for about twenty minutes. It’s hearty, it’s got fresh winter veg, and it’s easy.

7.  Fried Ricotta

In Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, Lidia Bastianich declares this recipe for Fried Ricotta to be one of the most delicious methods for cooking ricotta. The ricotta is shaped into balls, then dipped into flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs before frying in hot oil. I like how Lidia suggests that fried ricotta could be served as either a savory appetizer or sweet dessert. Her savory version is simply fried ricotta in tomato sauce with basil, and the sweet version calls for whipped cream and poached fruit or jam. Either way, I’m in.

8.  White (Vegetable) Lasagna

Ricotta is thick and creamy, the perfect dairy to bind layers of noodles and vegetables in lasagna. Martha Stewart’s Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna is a long-time favorite in my house. The mild ricotta, with it’s sweet and nutty notes, compliments roasted butternut squash beautifully. Ricotta is made into a sauce with fresh mozzarella, eggs, cream, and nutmeg, then layered in a casserole dish with chunks of roasted squash. The squash is flavored with sage butter and lasagna noodles. I like to keep things free form with this dish, using lasagna squares or torn noodle strips for a rustic feel. After half an hour in the oven, you’ve got a rich and bubbling vegetarian lasagna with a gorgeous golden brown crust. This is just the thing for the next snow day.

9.  Pancakes

Pancakes are a regular on my breakfast table, and I can’t wait to try my hand at Martha Stewart’s Orange-Ricotta Pancakes. In this recipe, ricotta, sugar, eggs, flour, and orange zest are whipped together for batter that makes moist, light, and fluffy pancakes. Take advantage of citrus season and serve these pancakes with a clementine and powdered sugar. For something more exotic, try this recipe for Coconut and Ricotta Pancakes with Ginger Syrup over at Bon Appétit.

10.  Roasted Greens, Ricotta & Preserved Lemons

This recipe I found in the article, Curd & Ways (Issue 19, Jamie magazine) combines several of my favorite winter flavors. Jamie roasts bitter winter greens like escarole, radiccio, spinach, and dandelion (with a bit of basil) in the oven until charred in places. The veg is served warm with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkling of earthy Aleppo pepper, and a large spoonful of seasoned ricotta. Preserved lemon, olive oil, chopped roasted almonds, and a pinch of sumac are stirred into the ricotta. Give me a piece of crusty baguette and I’m set for lunch.

What is your favorite way to cook with ricotta? Let me know in the comments section. Click Here.