Baked Ricotta: For the Vegetarian Lunch Date
Coming back from traveling and straight into the holiday craze at the wine shop where I work at has been good- distracting, lively- and then just plain busy. Falling asleep within minutes of eating a 10pm dinner after working the wine bar and writing kind of busy. Since the holidays have hit, I've been focusing on cooking meals that require low output- aiming for several meals that last for days, or cooking tasty dishes that inspire, quickly. So when my good friend Jesse came over for lunch/ business meeting this Sunday (yay, projects!), I wanted to keep it simple. And vegetarian, per her meatless preferences. So what did I do? Mmm hmmm… I bet you can guess. I went cheesy.
Baked ricotta is one of my go-to, low fuss, dishes. And cooking it just makes me happy, especially when I'm working with such lovely product as Bellwether's sheep's milk ricotta. Bellwether was the first certified sheep's milk dairy in California (I focused on their San Andreas in my book) and they make some of the most gorgeous ricotta I've had. But if you can't find them near you, just go with whatever other delicious local sheep's milk one you have. Fruition Farms makes a lovely one, too.
Sheep's milk ricotta provides more of a savory, earthy flavor than cow's milk that emerges once the cheese is baked, but if all you can is a find good cow's milk version near you, that's fine. The ricotta doesn't need to be true ricotta made from whey for this recipe, either. In fact, it's probably best if you can't find a rich sheep's milk version, to go with whole cow's milk cream-added ricotta instead. It would provide a richness that shines once baked. Salvatore Brklyn, here's looking at you.
Serve with whatever tasty sides you have around. I served with a pomegranate citrus salad, olive bread and sliced watermelon radishes. If I weren't going veg, I'd slice a local salami or two and serve with warmed olives.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
3 cups ricotta (really, it shrinks once cooked!)
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoons chopped parsley
Place ricotta in a shallow baking dish that's table-friendly. Flatten slightly. Drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Top with freshly ground pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top is lightly golden. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and parsley and serve.