Ricotta cheese is a staple of the Italian kitchen, but it deserves to be used in more places than lasagna. It’s an ingredient that can act as a counterweight to heavy doses of acid, salt, or other strong elements in a dish—so long as that element doesn’t clash with dairy. Ricotta is rarely at the center, and that’s fine. Whether it's store-bought or homemade, it does its best work supporting other flavors. But if you'd like to eat it by the spoonful, more power to you.
A creamy ricotta is the perfect companion to the beets in this salad. Without the dairy to counter beets’ bolder notes, they would simply beet too strong. (Sorry!)
When you make this salad, make sure to blanch the fava beans still in their shell. This improves their flavor and color. We also recommend several thick slices of crusty bread.
Ricotta and avocado may seem like an unlikely pair at first, but worry not—there’s no goop on this toast. The avocado remains in thick slices, and the ricotta is drained so it doesn’t sog out the toast.
Asparagus has a distinct, almost grassy flavor which really plays well against a base of ricotta on simple toast. This dish has very few ingredients, so you’ll want to use the best you can find.
Instead of an elaborate baking affair for your weekend project, try making homemade ravioli with fresh ricotta. Who doesn’t want to feel like an Italian nonna for an afternoon? And the effort is worth it: tender but firm pouches of pasta, filled with ricotta that's been cut with a little salty and nutty parm, a squeeze of bright lemon juice, and a hint of can't-quite-place-it nutmeg. All they need is a little drizzle of olive oil before serving.
Spinach and ricotta are as classic a combination as it gets. Our recipe has a few tricks: fresh manicotti sheets ensure a superior texture, and arugula is mixed with the spinach for extra grassy punch.
This is a great example of how ricotta pairs well with bolder flavors. Ricotta in the gnocchi creates the perfect, pillowy texture, and acts as a perfect canvas for the heavier flavors of the asparagus and prosciutto.
Cuccia is a sweet porridge made from wheatberries, similar to rice pudding, but with a creamier, thicker texture thanks to the addition of whipped ricotta. With a hint of vanilla and topped with cinnamon and chocolate shavings, it's just as good for breakfast as it is for dessert.
As any experienced cook knows, accidents often lead to discovery, and the accident that led to this recipe may have been the happiest of all. After Stella Parks whiffed a riff on brown butter-flavored Italian ricotta cookies, she ended up developing these cookies, and they're about as easy to make as they are irresistible. (Say it with me: crispy edges, soft center.)
Ricotta also works well as a topping. In this case, we mix it with lemon juice and spread it over French toast as a counterpoint to a sweet blackberry compote. It's a comforting way to bump up the quality of a brunch staple.
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