When I first learned to make ricotta, I went slightly overboard with delight and had ricotta overflowing in my refrigerator. I made gnocchi, ravioli, gelato, Kulka's ricotta lemon bars, cheesecakes and used it in a number of pasta dishes. It seems like I was searching daily for other recipes to incorporate it. One day, in the cheese section of our local health food store, I came across something new to me- ricotta infornata, a slow baked ricotta cheese with a golden brown crust and crumbly center. I purchased a piece and was so delighted by it's simplicity and possible uses that I of course, wanted to try to make it. A web search revealed a few methods so I experimented. A blog by Marisa Wilkins, All Things Sicilian, was an inspiration. My version bakes up creamier than the cheese I purchased, actually a plus in my mind. I love the earthiness that bay imparts but it is also good using fresh rosemary. Serve it as a first course with a salad or as a dessert drizzled with honey and served with figs or grapes. The possibilities are as endless as is the use for any good cheese! —PRST
Fresh Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese (preferably homemade and with some heavy cream added to the whole milk- 1 cup cream to 4 cups milk)
Fresh Bay Leaves or Rosemary, enough to cover the bottom of a small baking dish
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, optional
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, enough to oil a small baking dish and coat the cheese
Taste the ricotta, add a little salt if needed. Strain the ricotta in a mesh strainer in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours. The strainer is going to mold the cheese so use one that will give the depth of the strained cheese about 1.5-2 inches. A firm, dry ricotta is desired.
Pre-heat over to 350 degrees.
Generously oil the bottom and sides of a shallow baking dish that is slightly larger than the diameter of the mesh strainer.
Line the baking dish with either the fresh bay leaves or rosemary.
Unmold the ricotta into the baking dish (invert the strainer onto the baking dish).
Oil the cheese and sprinkle the top generously with coarse salt, and pepper (if desired)
Bake for 1-1.5 hours until very nicely browned.
Cool on a wire rack. Unmold after cooling.