Ricotta cheese is a necessary part of life, by which I mean it is a necessary ingredient in lasagna, and lasagna is life. But rarely do we sing the praises of ricotta the way college students do about burrata after studying abroad in Italy for three months, or the way we obsessed over blocks of feta on TikTok.
Now is ricotta’s long overdue chance to step in the spotlight. We have 19 recipes—starting with two homemade ricotta recipes (one for the stovetop and the other for your Instant Pot), moving all the way to ricotta toasts, pasta, pizza, and pancakes.
Let’s start with the basics—homemade ricotta cheese. Think back to your nursery school rhymes: three kinds of dairy—whole milk, heavy cream, and buttermilk—cook together to create curds (aka fresh ricotta!). Strain the curds over cheesecloth to remove the whey—the longer you let it drain, the firmer and lumpier it’ll be (for creamier ricotta, leave more whey). Food Editor Emma Laperruque recommends drinking the whey over ice!
Now that you’ve made fresh ricotta, it’s time to taste it. Sure, you could eat it by the spoonful, but spreading it over thick slices of brioche is even better. If the ricotta is too thick, mix it with a little bit of heavy cream so that it’s even more spreadable.
Wondering how to get fluffy, cloudlike pancakes? Ricotta, of course. “The tang from the cheese and lemon means they are less sweet, so that you can pile on all your favorite toppings (like maple syrup, fresh berries, and powdered sugar),” writes recipe developer Elaine Lemm.
The idea of ricotta spoonable is that you can, at any point, grab it from the fridge, put it on the table, and instantly have a snackable dip. Cookbook author Dorie Greenspan (who hardly needs an introduction) mixes whole-milk ricotta with lots of chopped herbs based on whatever’s in season, freshly grated lemon zest, olive oil, and lots of salt and pepper.
You can’t have lasagna without ricotta cheese (sorry not sorry). Whisk fresh ricotta with an entire cup of grated Parmesan, finely chopped garlic, and salt, then spread it over homemade ragù and no-cook noodles.
My new go-to weeknight dinner is this 10-minute pizza (yes, only 10 minutes, thanks to the yeast-free dough) topped with a cheesy trio of mozzarella, Parmesan, and ricotta, plus garlic and red pepper flakes for good measure.
Here’s the thing about gnocchi—if the potatoes aren’t cooked exactly right or the dough is overworked, the gnocchi will taste tough and chewy, rather than melting in your mouth. Leave it to ricotta to make everything, including these gnocchi, taste lighter and brighter.
I am asking you to bake a cheesecake with ricotta. And mascarpone. And cream cheese. This chocolate-studded cheesecake is, in the words of Food52’s resident baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell, “sophisticated and comforting.”
A little bit of ricotta cheese makes this lemony pasta recipe so creamy (as does a little bit of the starchy pasta water).
We’ve gone over how to make homemade ricotta cheese in a pot on the stove, but did you know that you can also make it using everyone’s favorite multicooker, the Instant Pot? The yogurt setting will transform three basic ingredients into creamy ricotta.
Saffron—the world’s most expensive spice—obviously deserves to be called out here but we can’t take our eyes off of the ricotta either, which creates a ridiculously creamy “sauce” for the pasta.
Go beyond basics with this upgraded ricotta toast that’s topped with halved grapes and olive oil, and broiled in the oven until the fruit is blistered and the cheese is a little melty.
Homemade cheesecakes are always a treat, but sometimes they’re too intimidating. This no-bake recipe gets its luscious creamy filling from a combination of ricotta and cream cheese, plus sugar.
Even when you don’t have time to cook or go grocery shopping, you can quickly put together this two-serving pasta dish that tastes like it took far longer to cook than it did.
“Not quite jammy, yet no longer tough and chewy, the raisins become a whole new condiment something like a conserve, but far less work,” writes recipe developer Rebecca Firkser. Warm fruit,creamy ricotta, and crunchy toast is a satisfying snack at any hour of the day.
This classic Italian dish doesn’t call for fresh ricotta, but rather ricotta salata, which is a hard cheese that is pressed, salted, and aged for at least three months.
Start the party with this grilled appetizer, and no one will ever want to leave.
Instead of a meaty bolognese sauce, these vegetarian shells are stuffed with ricotta cheese and smothered with a kale-based pesto.
When the temperature drops below 60, I would like someone to immediately hand me a personal tray of lasagna. This autumnal one features layers of kale, Italian sausage, pumpkin béchamel, herby ricotta, and fresh mozzarella.
What’s your favorite way to cook (or bake!) with ricotta cheese? Do you make it yourself? Let us know in the comments below!
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