Ricotta cheese is extremely versatile and can be used in everything from appetizers to dessert. In this appetizer recipe, I simply baked ricotta mixed with chopped herbs and some grated cheese in a small loaf pan until it firmed up and turned a light golden brown. When the ricotta has cooled, you can simply cut the loaf into slices and serve topped with any sauce you prefer. For the sauce in this recipe, I slow roasted some cherry tomatoes and then mixed them with fresh chopped basil, garlic, chopped olives, capers, salt and pepper. To serve simply garnish with some fresh basil sprigs, and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. This is a very easy, light appetizer that is great year round. I baked my ricotta into a small loaf shape which I sliced although you could also bake the cheese in individual ramekins. If you do so you will need to decrease the baking time accordingly.
Ricotta cheese is widely used in Italian cooking in everything from appetizers to desserts. It is a very soft, low-fat cheese that is actually a by-product of cheese making because it is made from the whey that has been separated from the curd in the process of actually making cheese. It is in fact, technically a dairy product rather than an actual cheese because of this. Ricotta translates as “recooked” and was originally made in Rome when it was discovered that the whey could be reheated, then strained, thereby getting it’s name. Although any type of milk can be used to make ricotta, in southern Italy either sheep’s milk or goat milk is used most often. When in Italy I usually choose sheep’s milk ricotta but back in North America however I must use what is most readily available to me, which is whole cow’s milk.
Deborah Mele 2011
Slow Roasted Tomato Sauce:
- 2 Pints Cherry Tomatoes
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- 4 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Basil (Divided in Half)
- 10 Black Pitted Kalamata Olives, Chopped
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon Capers, Chopped
For The Baked Ricotta:
- 2 Pounds Fresh Ricotta Cheese
- 3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Parsley
- 3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Basil
- 1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Salt & Pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Cracked Black Pepper
- Fresh Basil Sprigs
- For the tomatoes, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Mix tomatoes, oil, salt, pepper and half the basil and place tomatoes in an oven-proof casserole dish.
- Bake for about an hour and a half, or until the tomatoes have softened, released some of their juices and have just begun to brown.
- Stir in the rest of the basil, olives, and capers and set aside.
- For the baked ricotta, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Mix together the ricotta, herbs, and grated cheese, then season with salt and pepper.
- Spoon the cheese mixture into a lightly oiled baking tin and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until cheese is lightly browned and somewhat firm to the touch. (It will firm up even more as it cools).
- Let sit at room temperature until ready to serve.
- Slice the ricotta into 1/2 inch slices and place two on each plate.
- Spoon some of the tomatoes with their juice onto each serving of ricotta.
- Drizzle a little olive oil over each, and sprinkle with some cracked black pepper.
- Garnish with fresh basil sprigs and serve.