Poor ricotta cheese. It’s usually made with the leftover whey from making other cheeses but is rarely a destination food unto itself. Really, ricotta cheese is highly underrated and underutilized. Generally left to tango with marinara in baked ziti or spread on lasagna noodles all whipped up with egg and Parmesan or sweetened and piped into a cannoli, it’s rarely left to its own devices to please. While people happily cut slices of fresh mozzarella (which shares some of the same flavor profile) and spread cream cheese on bagels, ricotta is under-appreciated and forgotten. But ricotta is something amazing on its own. It’s rich, with a hint of sweetness and a fine but every-so-grainy texture. I prefer the cow’s milk version, but you can find ricotta made with goat’s milk or sheep’s milk or buffalo milk as well.
And if you are feeling very adventurous, you can try making your own homemade ricotta.
Lately, I’ve had ricotta on the brain, wanting to give it an opportunity to shine. So when I was working on a pasta recipe last week where the roasted garlic tomatoes rocked and the pasta dish itself didn’t, it immediately occurred to me that I could salvage my efforts by plucking the best part of the recipe out and using it elsewhere — as part of a crostini topping.
Crostini is a fun little class of appetizers built on crunchy slices of bread. They are eaten in just a couple bites, letting you get the full effect of a dish without a lot of effort. This one starts with unadulterated ricotta cheese spread on toasted slices of French bread. Use as much as you please — we like a good smear of it. Then a garlicky roasted tomato is placed on top.
Though my kids can be funny about bread, not always enjoying it — especially when it’s crunchy — they inhaled the flavors and textures in this dish. Paige‘s favorite part? The ricotta. Perhaps it won’t be so under-appreciated in this household anymore.
What do you think? Should ricotta be a little more used and appreciated, beyond the confines of the usual suspect dishes?
Garlic Tomato Crostini with Ricotta
1 pint grape tomatoes
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4-5 sprigs thyme
1/2 loaf French bread cut into 1/4 inch slices (approximately)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse the tomatoes in cool water, drain and add to an oval baking dish. Sprinkle with minced garlic and salt and drizzle with olive oil. Toss the sprigs of thyme into the dish and give it a good shake to distribute the seasonings.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the tomatoes burst when touched with a spoon. With a firm hand, crush all the tomatoes.
Meanwhile, spread ricotta cheese, to taste, onto each of the French bread slices (you will need as many slices as tomatoes — roughly 30-35). Then spoon a tomato and a little of the juice from the baking dish on top. Arrange on a serving plate.