The simple things in life are the best
I come from a family of cheese lovers. My Nonna loved nothing more than a good piece of cheese wrapped in a piece of bread with her morning coffee (usually with a little grappa thrown in just for good measure). So I guess I learned early the joy of eating food that was simple and let the quality ingredients speak for themselves. “Nothing fancy lovey” Nonna would have said.
This baked ricotta is simple to prepare and cook and is always well received at parties as a starter. I have also made it for picnics and have served it for ladies lunches with Red Bread and a simple rocket salad. I have seen some other recipes for baking ricotta in a bowl and am keen to try those but let’s start with the tried and true recipe first.
I like to buy the ricotta a day or two in advance. Wrap in paper towels and place in a bowl and refrigerate at least overnight or even two days prior to baking. This removes some of the moisture and will help the ricotta keep it’s shape. If you are short of time, and buy on the day of baking, wrap in paper towel for as long as you can.
Preheat oven and line a small baking tray with baking paper. Now you could just grease the tin as I have in the past, but let me tell you, those crunchy golden bits that form on the bottom, whilst delicious, are tough to scrape off! Save yourself some work. Drizzle with olive oil and generous season with salt and pepper. Into the oven for 25 minutes and it will look like this:just starting to colour around the edges. In the meantime you will have chopped your fresh herbs and mixed with a little oil.
A used a combination of parsley, sage and thyme as that is what is abundant in my garden right now. You could also pop in some chives or basil. Spread the herbs over the cheese (see below)Lower oven temp and return cheese for another 30 minutes, when the cheese will be sizzling and brown and the herbs will be a little crispy but still green.Let rest for 15 minutes before removing from the baking tin. Now, my preference is to bake this on the day of serving and to serve at room temperature or still just warm without ever going into the refrigerator. Not always possible. So if you are making ahead, let it cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and pop in the fridge where it will last for up to a week. Remove from fridge 20 minutes before serving.
I have made several variations of this baked ricotta. You can slice it horizontally through centre and spread with fresh pesto or olive tapenade – the pesto version is a great favourite here. If you love chilli, you could replace herb crust with some chilli flakes and crushed garlic and serve with slices of fresh chilli – the possibilities are endless.
- 500g fresh ricotta cheese
- 1 tbs olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Herb Crust:
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs chopped parsley
- 1 tbs chopped thyme
- 1 tbs chopped sage
- Wrap ricotta in paper towels and place in refrigerator overnight, or at least 4 hours.
- Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a small baking dish with baking paper. Place ricotta in dish and drizzle with oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes until edges of ricotta are turning golden. Baste through this process to achieve a more even colour.
- Chop herbs finely and mix with olive oil to make a paste
- Remove ricotta from oven and reduce temperature to 160°C. Place herb mixture over the ricotta cheese and return to the oven.
- Bake for a further 30 minutes until the ricotta is lightly browned.
- Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes
- Serve immediately, or cool completely and refrigerate for up to one week
For chilli lovers, try topping with chilli flakes and garlic instead of the herbs
A further variation is to slice the ricotta horizontally across centre, and spread with fresh pesto, olive tapenade or sundried tomato paste