Baked Ricotta Cheese
I love to treat my father to a big home-cooked meal from my kitchen when he comes down to visit for the weekend, but the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time making an elaborate breakfast too if I want to spend some time with him away from the kitchen as well. At the same time, though, I like to give him something a little different than the usual cereal or eggs.
Fortunately the versatility of ricotta makes this Italian whey cheese the best friend of anyone who wants to make an impression with a unique breakfast that's also incredibly fast and simple. And what could be simpler than mixing a tub of fresh ricotta with your favorite morning flavors and throwing it on to a pan to bake?
For my breakfast with Dad, I lightly stirred in a little of his homemade maple syrup into a one-pound tub of whole fat ricotta cheese and spread the mixture out on to a lightly buttered 9-inch baking pan. The pan was then put into an oven pre-heated to 350° and left to bake for about 40 minutes or until the edges and the top just started turning golden brown. After letting the cheese cool for a few minutes, it was ready to slice and serve with some fresh blueberries and strawberries. Delicious.
Best of all, there are practically no limitations on what you can do with ricotta cheese before baking it except your imagination. You can make an equally delicious breakfast food by stirring in a 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg, or a couple of tablespoons of jams or preserves, or even some crushed pistachios and raisins, into the ricotta before baking.
But it's not just for breakfast. Try adding a handful of chives and a 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite herbs or spices to the cheese and cutting the baked herbed or spiced ricotta into small slices for appetizers, or even smaller cubes for a decidedly different topping in a green salad. Putting the pan once it's baked under the broiler for a couple of minutes with a little sprinkled Parmesan cheese over the top makes a nice touch too. Or stir in a couple of tablespoons of dark rum and some raisins to make a delicious and unique after-dinner tidbit. In other words, baked ricotta cheese works with almost any flavor combination you can think of for almost any occasion, so give it a try and let me know your favorite baked ricotta cheese idea.