Normally I'm all about innovation and deep digging and hardcore testing here at The Food Lab. But this time I'm starting with a dish so iconic, so incredible, so damn-near-flawless in its original form that the best I can possibly hope to do is tweak it just a bit to suit my very particular personal tastes. I'm talking about the ricotta gnudi at The Spotted Pig, April Bloomfield's West Village gastropub. Thin, thin pasta surrounds a core of creamy, explosive sheep's milk ricotta all served in a brown butter and sage sauce. And the good news is that my favorite dish isn't even that hard to make.
'ricotta' on Serious Eats
I love gnocchi. At least, I love the gnocchi in my mind. Light, pillowy, flavor-packed, they're the perfect vessel for a good red sauce. The big problem? Potato gnocchi take a long time and are far from foolproof. Say hello to their quick, easy, and delicious ricotta-based cousins.
Classic homemade ricotta ravioli gets some tang from Parmesan cheese, a tart squeeze of lemon juice, and a subtle hit of nutmeg. All it needs is a splash of olive oil and it's ready to serve.
Fire-roasted butternut squash is perfectly soft and sweet inside, with a lightly charred exterior that just can't be replicated in an oven. Here, it's paired with creamy ricotta, fresh sage, and toasted pine nuts for a great seasonal side dish.
Queso fresco is a delicious, milky, fresh cheese that is a breeze to make. It doesn't melt, so it's a great cheese for grilling in cubes or slices, and is awesome crumbled over soups or salads.
Making double use of the grill, dish of rollatini starts with eggplant slices that are until tender and browned, then sees them returned to the grill as rollatini in a covered baking dish, just long enough for the cheese to melt and the marinara sauce to heat through.
Soft braised leeks are accented with basil and rounded out with ricotta cheese for these simple, summery crostini.
These quick and tender turkey burgers are packed with flavor, including a topping of pan-sautéed tomatoes, melted shallots, ricotta cheese, and basil. They're a delicious 30-minute meal.
Pillowy ricotta cookies are scented with Fiori di Sicilia, a fragrant blend of citrus extracts.
A hearty winter salad of lightly sautéed vegetables, kale, and fresh ricotta cheese.
Classic bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapeños poppers get an Italian twist. Hot cherry peppers, filled with ricotta and provolone cheeses, are wrapped with prosciutto and cooked on the grill.
A delicate, not-too-sweet ricotta-flavored ice cream ripe for scooping onto pie and customizing with your favorite add-ins.
An end-of-summer pasta dish with cherry tomatoes and a dollop of creamy, herbed ricotta cheese.
This hearty frittata is filled with broccoli florets, tomatoes, fresh basil, and creamy ricotta.
It took me a long time to come around to the prickly artichoke. For the longest time, this vegetable seemed like too much work for too little food--there's peeling, scraping, poking, and snipping involved in most preparations. But in the last few years, I've come to appreciate the slow process as well as the slight grassy sweetness of the heart and the meditative undertaking of eating the flesh off the tiny leaves. Louisa Shafia's stuffed artichokes recipe in The New Persian Kitchen adds another couple layers of greatness to the humble artichoke. To the center she adds a subtly fragrant and fluffy ricotta, egg, and saffron filling that puffs and browns over a long slow roasting time. Drizzled atop is a brilliant mixture of lemon juice, dried mint, and grape seed oil that permeates the delicate leaves a reduced sauce in the pan perfect for greedy dipping and slurping.
It may not be zucchini season quite yet, but I'd advise squirreling away Deborah Madison's Summer Squash Tartines recipe from her new book, Vegetable Literacy, for dinner parties in the coming months. Another winning bread-cheese-vegetable combination, these open-faced sandwiches are just the thing when you've got a couple of cucurbits hanging around the house. Sure, anyone can throw cheese on bread and call it an appetizer. Yet Madison's little touches, like rubbing the bread with garlic and gently cooking the squash with a saute-steam method, make these tartines more than a slapdash effort at a snack.
Shucking fresh peas is not a quick task, I'll admit. But if you can get your hands on some fresh peas in their pods at a farmers' market in the next couple of weeks, grab them and commit to an extra half hour of meal prep. Deborah Madison's unassuming Peas with Baked Ricotta from her new book Vegetable Literacy is worth it. The bright sweetness of the buttery peas matches perfectly with the creamy richness of fresh ricotta, and baking the ricotta with olive oil and fresh bread crumbs transforms cheese and peas into an actual meal.
"Baci" is Italian for "kiss". And these kisses are as light as air. Flavored with anise liqueur, these fried delights should flutter into your mouth as fast as you can turn them out. Nigellissima has the recipe.
From soup-filled to soup-simmered, I have never met a dumpling I did not like. So it was with great excitement that I flipped open From A Polish Country House Kitchen to find not one, not two, but three different recipes for pierogi. Pierogi are boiled and then pan fried half-moon dumplings usually filled with some kind of meat, cheese, or potato filling. Pierogi are usually made en masse as a celebratory meal, since all of the kneading, rolling, filling, and boiling can take the better part of a day. Anne Applebaum and Danielle Crittenden's recipe, however, is scaled back to make just enough pierogi for 4 people, so the challenge is a little less formidable. Their classic "Ruskie" filling of potatoes, ricotta, bacon, and peas is a humble one, but it is nonetheless delightful.
Finally: a salad that holds its own with no need for dressing. Oranges and grilled lemon brighten up grilled escarole, adding enough acidity and flavor that you don't need to pour on dressing to add taste. A one-container salad that won't contain any sad, soggy lettuce.