The Baked Ricotta of Mirto
Before my Sicilian cheese trek began, I saw images of “Ricotta Infornata” — sheep’s milk ricotta pressed into forms and baked to a dark chocolate-brown color. Naturally, I was curious to find a source.
My co-conspirators, Marriane and Cindi, helped me suss out the small town of Mirto in the Nebrodie Mountains which is home to a renowned cheese and meat shop, La Pasianella. Here, Luisa and Agostino Sebastiano continue their family tradition of making traditional cheeses and wild boar salami. Any food fiend who travels to Sicily should plan a stop. (Pack a cutting board, you’ll want to picnic.)
La Paisanella is pristine, its entrance flanked by award certificates. When we arrived, Luisa treated us to a tasting of all the cheeses in her case, including the cheese I’d been looking for: Ricotta Infornata.
She also showed us the oven where the ricotta is baked “for two to three hours.” The long baking time yields a delicacy that tastes caramelized, like flan. Delicious. I can imagine eating slices of it for dessert with coffee liqueur.
If you stop through Mirto, here are 3 things not to miss:
– House-cured black boar sausage from the family’s black pigs (Suino Nero)
– Nebrodi Provola (the local mountain cheese, which has been inducted into the Slow Food Presidium)
– Ricotta Infornata (slow-baked ricotta, pictured below)
If You Visit: Mirto is an exquisite small town in the Nebrodie Mountains. You won’t find any tourists, just stray cats, Byzantine ruins, incredible mountain vistas, and friendly locals hanging out at La Cometa, the local pastry shop, where the old men like to watch soccer and nibble butter cookies. Try the gelato and pick up some baked goods for the road.
Note: This post is Part 3 of a Sicilian cheese trek I am undertaking as part of Due South, a Philadelphia-based arts collaborative.