Baked Ricotta for the End of Tomato Season
I have an irrational love of baked ricotta – whenever I see its dark crust at the cheese counter, my lips croon at it. It is to this cheese lover what campfire-roasted marshmallows are to a Girl Scout.
So I swooned when I caught sight of this recipe in the back of one of my favorite kitchen books, The Heirloom Tomato, by Amy Goldman. And when friends at Greensgrow Farms gave me a tub of local grass-fed ricotta (from Wholesome Dairy Farms in Yellow House, PA), well, I hummed all the way home from the market.
Baked ricotta is three ingredients – ricotta, olive oil, and black pepper — and a 12-ounce tub fits perfectly into a small crock that you can slip in your toaster oven. Use fresh ricotta, my friend, not the chalky stuff at ordinary groceries, because you want puffy clouds of ricotta as a base, not grout.
Sorry, was that mean?
One ricotta is not the same as another. The fresher the better, and the better the milk the ‘mo bettah. Here’s how I feathered the nest with cloud-light, warm-spoon-bread-like baked ricotta over the weekend.
Adapted from The Heirloom Tomato, by Amy Goldman
4 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces ricotta
Sea salt, a generous pinch
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
1. Grease a small oven-safe crock, and preheat your oven or toaster oven to 450 degrees.
2. Drain the ricotta if it’s at all watery. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the ricotta and two tablespoons of olive oil. Add a couple cranks of black pepper.
3. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the crock, and give it another drizzle of oil and another couple cranks. Then pop it into the oven. It helps to set it on a cookie sheet so you can retrieve it easily without burning the hair off your wrists.
4. Bake 30-40 minutes, or until the top of the ricotta looks like a well-roasted marshmallow. Serve warm.
Serve baked ricotta as an appetizer with garlic-rubbed toast and your last tomatoes, drizzled with some good balsamic and a few fresh herbs. I used chives. Basil would be good, too. Add olives, a roasted garlic clove, some wine, and you’ve got something gorgeous. For dessert, try omitting the black pepper and serve this ricotta with honey and sliced peaches.
Note: A number of other recipes, like this one from Leite’s Culinaria, call for adding an egg or two. I suspect that makes a light, fluffy ricotta dish that can be served at room temperature. This one definitely needs to be eaten when it’s hot, otherwise it turns a bit rubbery. Sad but true.