Five amazing, versatile ricotta recipes

Five of our favourite ricotta recipes

by Pete Dreyer 06 October 2017

Ricotta is easy to find and incredibly versatile – working beautifully in a whole host of sweet and savoury dishes, from ravioli to cakes and pastries! Here are five of our favourite ricotta recipes, courtesy of some of our great Italian chefs and food writers.

Pete worked as a food writer at Great British Chefs.

Pete worked as a food writer at Great British Chefs.

When it comes to cheese, the Italians really know their stuff. With hard umami-rich cheeses like Parmesan and Pecorino Romano proving ever-popular, and springy balls of mozzarella suiting everything from Caprese salads to gooey pizzas, ricotta often gets lost in the shuffle. Its mild, creamy sweetness works perfectly with a host of other sweet and savoury flavours, whether it be with nuts and citrus in a cheesecake, with herbs and spinach in a ravioli, or simply spread over a cracker.

Ricotta is Italian for 're-cooked', which makes sense once you understand how it’s made. The leftover whey from cheesemaking is acidulated and cooked, separating the fine Ricotta curds from the rest of the mixture. It's a simple process, with a beautiful result. If you fancy having a go at making your own at home, be sure to check out our how to make ricotta guide before embarking on these dishes.

We've pulled together five classic ricotta recipes from some extremely talented Italian chefs and food writers. Take a look, then pop over to our collection of ricotta recipes for even more inspiration.

1. Ricotta pudding cake

Valeria Necchio's ricotta cake is incredibly simple to make, and the extra moisture that comes from the ricotta results in a really rich, delicious crumb. Valeria rices her ricotta to make it really smooth and beats the eggs and sugar until fluffy, before folding all the ingredients together and baking for an hour and a half. A touch of range blossom water adds an extra floral note, but you could switch it out for other flavours if you liked – she suggests candied peel, grappa-soaked raisins or even chocolate.

2. Herb and ricotta ravioli

Pasta and ricotta are a match made in heaven, and ricotta ravioli has become a staple of restaurant menus all over the world, not just in Italy. Leafy greens like spinach, chard and nettle work beautifully with ricotta's sweet creaminess, but Massimo Spigaroli takes things a step further, filling his parcels with a mixture of basil, rosemary and oregano to create a heavily scented ravioli.

3. Sfogliatelle

Often called 'lobster tails' due to their distinctive shape, sfogliatelle are ricotta-filled pastries from Campania, originating from Salerno in the seventeenth century. The dough requires a bit of care and attention – you need to roll it through a pasta roller to about 1mm thick before rolling it into tight spirals – but these impressive little parcels are more than worth the effort. Traditionally these are filled with a filling made with ricotta and candied citrus peel, but feel free to experiment with your own ideas.

4. Ricotta gnocchi with pepper and spinach

Caterina Ceraudo's ricotta gnocchi dish is a real crowd-pleaser with its bold, bright colours, but its a deceptively simple dish to make, thanks to a few key flavours. Using ricotta instead of potato gives the gnocchi a light, pillowy texture that sits perfectly alongside her simple red pepper sauce – made with just red peppers and salt. Add a leaf of spinach to each gnoccho and there you have it – a perfect starter to impress your dinner guests.

5. Cannoli Siciliani di ricotta

Arguably the most famous of Sicily's treats, cannoli are traditionally deep-fried pastry tubes – from the Sicilian cannolu, meaning 'little tube' – filled with sweetened ricotta. These days you'll find cannoli are popular all over the world, and come filled with all sorts of different goodies, from chocolate to nuts and citrus, or even more intricate ideas like Roberto Petza's crunchy cannoli with cardamom cream. Antonella la Macchia goes for ricotta, chocolate and pistachio in hers, but why not give your own idea a try?