We always look forward to spring produce as the weather warms (even if we are enjoying it from home this year), but we’ll never quit cheese. Still, blankets of cheddar might get shed in favor of lighter, milder fresh cheese. So we rounded up 11 ricotta recipes perfect for celebrating the change in season.
While we may feel an urge to start eating lighter fare, we don’t mean mere rabbit food. We still want creamy, cheesy things in addition to salads, just maybe not the heavy, ooey-gooey, warm winter fondues and vats of mac and cheese we’ve been crushing for the past few months.
Riccotta manages to be both lush and light (it definitely has the edge over cottage cheese).
We wouldn’t turn down stuffed shells or baked ziti even at the height of summer, but these ricotta recipes are lighter and brighter, and showcase a lot of spring’s best ingredients, because they should be celebrated every chance you get.
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Note #1: Ricotta Salata
We did leave out ricotta salata, the aged, firmer, saltier sibling of the mild, creamy ricotta you can spread and schmear, because while it’s just as delicious, it doesn’t quite scream (well, whisper) spring like the fresh, milky cheese does. (Still, you should definitely eat ricotta salata too—grated over our Linguine with Squash Noodles and Pine Nuts, for instance.)
Note #2: Homemade Ricotta
Store-bought ricotta can be pretty great, but it happens to be easy to make ricotta at home—all you need is whole milk, vinegar or lemon juice, and salt. A thermometer helps, and cheesecloth is necessary for draining the liquid, but all in all, it takes less than an hour, and tastes amazingly fresh. Plus, you have the satisfaction of saying you made your own cheese!
DIY Cheese-Making Kit, $34.95 at Williams Sonoma
This kit will help you make not only ricotta, but mozzarella too.
If you decide to try it, you can use homemade ricotta in any of these recipes, but they’ll all still sing with the store-bought stuff too. We would just recommend getting whole-milk ricotta for the best texture and flavor.
For a nearly effortless appetizer you won’t be able to stop eating, simply blend a big bunch of green herbs into sweet ricotta and spread it on toast (with whatever cured meat or roasted or pickled veggies you may want to go along with), or dip crackers and crunchy vegetables in it. The recipe calls for parsley, chives, and basil, but you can highlight any other herbs you prefer. A little parmesan and lemon juice makes it even better. And if you’re still feeling a little chill, you can bake it for a warm dip. Get our Herbed Ricotta Spread recipe.
Stinging nettles sound scary, but cooking them makes them harmless, and they taste delicious, especially against the creamy cool of ricotta on toasted bread. (But if you’re still wary, try ricotta bruschetta with peas instead.) Get our Ricotta Crostini with Sauteed Nettles recipe.
Spring asparagus is a total joy any way you serve it, but eggs are another sign of spring, so it only makes sense to combine the two (like in a Dungeness crab frittata, for instance). This fluffy and tender asparagus quiche blends eggs and ricotta in a flaky all-butter crust to enhance the vegetable without overshadowing it. Get our Asparagus Quiche recipe.
While classic basil pesto pasta is a warm-weather staple, in spring, try this artichoke pesto with ricotta cheese in the mix. Fresh artichokes are a spring produce all-star, but this calls for the convenience of jarred artichoke hearts so you can get dinner on the table faster—and get outside while there’s still some sunlight. Get our Pasta with Artichoke Pesto recipe.
Even lasagna can be lightened up for spring. This vegetarian lasagna calls for basil pesto and a pea-and-ricotta filling; you can use fresh peas when in season, and even adapt this to be a noodle-free lasagna if you’re watching carbs or can’t do gluten. Get our Pesto and Pea Lasagna recipe.
OK, so this meatball sub itself is substantial, but the turkey meatballs inside the bread and under the sauce are light and tender thanks to the ricotta blended in. You can serve them in a myriad of other ways if you’re not in a sandwich mood—try them in lettuce wraps; in a light soup; added to either of the pasta recipes above; or just on their own, beside some roasted, steamed, or sauteed veggies and rice pilaf or a grain like quinoa. (Adding some ricotta to your turkey burger keeps it juicy too.) Get our Turkey Ricotta Meatballs recipe.
Yes, this one is also a little heftier, but think of it as an easier alternative to the traditional Italian Easter pie and it makes sense to count it as spring-appropriate (also, it’s just plain delicious). Using store-bought pizza dough makes this crowd-pleasing calzone easy to pull together, too, and if you’d rather make it vegetarian, swap in roasted peppers and onions and maybe some broccoli rabe for the Italian sausage. Any of those go perfectly with all the ricotta and provolone cheese in the filling. Get our Easy Italian Sausage Calzone recipe.
Fluffy lemon-ricotta pancakes are even airier thanks to whipped egg whites folded into the batter. You can top them with any fruit you fancy and serve them for breakfast or brunch, but it’s going to be hard not to eat them right there at the stove as they come out of the pan. Get our Lemon Ricotta Pancakes recipe.
Cheesecake is a perennial favorite, plain or topped with jam, preserves, and sauces. Passion fruit may technically be more summery than springy, but its bright fragrance and flavor and vibrant color are too good to wait another few months for; they’re exactly the sort of thing we want to be eating when the sun is shining after a long gloomy spell (aka winter). Luckily, you can buy passion fruit concentrate year-round, and that’s what this dessert uses. Get our Ricotta Cheesecake with Passion Fruit recipe.
Maguary Passion Fruit Concentrate, $9.99 on Amazon
Packed with passion fruit flavor.
For something a little less brash in taste and appearance—but equally swoon-worthy and ideal for a spring dessert—try this ricotta and honey tart with fresh lemon zest and crunchy almonds sprinkled over top. A touch of cinnamon gives it a little something extra. Get our Ricotta and Honey Tart recipe.
11. Tiramisu Dip
Of course, since it’s hard to resist the siren song of warmer weather and you probably want to spend as much time as possible outside instead of being cooped up in the kitchen, you might prefer not to bake at all. In that case, ricotta makes a great base for a creamy dessert dip inspired by tiramisu. It’s a big hit at parties, ridiculously quick to put together, and perfect for scooping up with lots of things, from biscotti and shortbread to those first sweet strawberries of the season. Get our Tiramisu Dip recipe.
Celebrate all the best of the season at our spring headquarters.
Related Video: What to Do with Leftover Ricotta Cheese