Ricotta Cheese on Everything!

OK, I’ll admit that putting ricotta cheese on everything may be a bit of a stretch, but truthfully, there really are few things that aren’t made better by the addition of a little fresh ricotta.  And I’m talking fresh, people.  Fresh, as in homemade… the kind you make yourself.  And today, after we’re done talking about making your own ricotta cheese,  we’re going to transform that luscious cheese into a lovely spread/dip/condiment/topping/ingredient with endless possibilities for creative deliciousness.

At the risk of sounding a bit naggy (yes, I’ve said this before; maybe a few times), homemade ricotta cheese is where it’s at.  It’s lusciously creamy and ethereally fresh and oh so delicious, and yes, it’s VERY easy to make.  And for the price of a gallon of milk, you’ll get about ¾ lb. of cheese.  Here’s my recipe.  I’ll just wait here while you go and make yourself some.  Yes, it takes a little while to get the milk to heat all the way to 185 degrees, but no need to stand and stare at the thermometer.  Give the dog a bath, strip off the wallpaper in the bathroom, vacuum the car and weed the garden.  Time well spent.

Now that you have that beautiful cheese sitting there in front of you, what the heck are you going to do with it?  Yes, you could make lasagna, but let’s try something a little different.  Let’s take 1 cup of that milky, cheese-y goodness and mix it with a little olive oil, some parmesan cheese, a little salt and some fresh, chopped basil.  Now that’s some good stuff right there.

The most obvious thing we can do with our little cheese mixture now is to spread it on some perfectly grilled crostini. 

 

You will want to eat the whole thing, but I encourage you to show some restraint and save a little because we have some awesome plans for the rest of this lovely mixture…

              Place a dollop on some perfectly braised greens
              Mix some with al dente linguini and top with a little more chopped basil
              Stuff a tomato
              Stir a little into scrambled eggs or an omelet
              Top a pizza
              Mix a little into your favorite meatball ingredients
              Use it instead of sour cream on top of a baked potato
              Stuff some baby red peppers and bake until soft and melty
              Use as a dip with chips, veggies or crackers
              Mix with shredded chicken for a yummy chicken salad sandwich
              Stuff a chicken breast
              Place a dollop on top of some spaghetti with marinara sauce

I know you’ll think of lots more ways to use your ricotta-parmesan spread, and we all know that there are even more endless possibilities for that beautiful cheese you just made.  We haven’t even started talking about dessert yet.   Maybe we’ll save that for another day.  In the meantime, here’s the recipe...

Ricotta-Parmesan Cheese Spread

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (here's my recipe and lots more clever ways to use it)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Mix all of the ingredients together and store in an airtight container until ready to use.  Will keep for 3 or 4 days in the fridge.