22 Creative Uses for Ricotta Cheese (That Aren't Lasagna)
Ricotta is best known as a lasagna-recipe staple or ravioli stuffing, but there are so many other delicious ways to use ricotta cheese.
Its mild flavor and versatility mean that it pairs well with sweet and savory dishes. Ricotta is also high in protein, mostly derived from whey. A milk protein, whey is full of essential amino acids, and research shows it aids muscle growth and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.
We asked a slew of chefs, recipe developers, and other foodies to share their favorite creative ways to use ricotta. Here are the 22 ways to use it that aren't lasagna. It's much more versatile than you think!
Grocery stores are full of delicious ricotta products that are perfect for any recipe, but it's also fun to make your own. And it just takes three simple ingredients—milk, salt and lemon juice—and five minutes in the microwave, said Sarah Bond of vegetarian recipe blog Live Eat Learn.
The cannoli is a traditional Italian treat with a crispy, fried shell that's typically filled with sweetened ricotta. This recipe adds chocolate chips and pistachios for an extra flourish.
Ricotta is also a main feature in cannoli-inspired treats, said Jillian Wade, blogger at Food Folks and Fun. Her Holy Cannoli Ice Cream blends ricotta, mascarpone, waffle cone pieces, mini chocolate chips, and pistachios.
Another idea is cannoli chips and dip. The dip combines whipped cream, ricotta, cream cheese, powdered sugar, mini chocolate chips, vanilla, and orange zest, along with chocolate and pistachio-covered chips.
Ricotta and Cherry Tomato Salad
Neda Varbanova, the creator of Healthy with Nedi, uses ricotta whipped with olive oil and salt as the base for a salad of cherry tomatoes, baby arugula, and snap peas tossed in a dressing made from balsamic vinegar, pine nuts, basil, and olive oil.
Along with being a creamy crepe filling, ricotta creates extra-fluffy stacks when added to pancake batter. Vered DeLeeuw, the founder of Healthy Recipes Blog, said using ricotta also makes for richer pancakes. She adds a full cup of the cheese to her lemon ricotta pancakes, which also contain coconut flour and are gluten-free.
Filling for Crepes
Ricotta also makes a creamy filling for homemade crepes, which can be topped with fresh fruit, compote, or jam. Varbanova enjoys pairing her mom's Bulgarian crepes, or "palachinki," with sweet berry jam.
DeLeeuw said using ricotta for cheesecake creates a lighter texture than traditional recipes. She uses whole milk ricotta for her crustless cheesecake, featuring vanilla and lemon flavors.
Butternut, Beet, and Ricotta Galette
A ricotta base for sweet or savory galettes helps keep the bottom crust from getting soggy, Bond said.
Combining ricotta and reduced-fat cream cheese or Neufchatel with espresso powder and Amaretto liqueur creates a healthier spin on the classic Italian dessert. And, because this tiramisu recipe leaves out the cookie layers, DeLeeuw said it cuts the calories and the carbs.
Whipped Ricotta Bowls with Roasted Pears
Yogurt is a go-to healthy breakfast or snack for many people, but did you know you can swap out the yogurt for ricotta? Nutritionist Lisa Richards said ricotta also often has less sugar and more protein. Top a bowlful of ricotta with fruit, nuts, or granola. Or add it to your favorite smoothie for a creamy base.
Adding ricotta gives any frittata a fluffy, creamy texture, said Melissa Erdelac, recipe developer and creator of blog MamaGourmand. She likes to incorporate ricotta into her potato frittata recipe, which is similar to a Spanish tortilla, with sliced potatoes, eggs, and cheese. However, any other vegetables, meats, or cheeses can be added, she said.
As with frittatas, ricotta adds a lightness to quiche recipes, said Maya Krampf, founder of Wholesome Yum. Her recipe adds kale and mushrooms to the egg-based dish.
A half-cup of ricotta, along with butter and parmesan, is the trick to "no-fail, fluffy creamy grits" in just a few minutes, Erdelac said.
Berry Ricotta Dessert Parfait
Krampf creates a keto-friendly dessert with ricotta blended with heavy cream, lemon zest, powdered sugar, and vanilla layered with berries. This is a versatile dessert parfait, and the berries can be swapped out for nuts, chocolate, or anything else, she said.
Daniel England, the corporate chef at OMG Hospitality Group in San Diego, said ricotta gnocchi is his favorite use of the cheese, as it makes the dumplings "so soft and pillow-like." He usually sears it in a hot pan and serves it with a brown butter sauce, herbs, and macadamia nuts.
Ricotta Coffee Mousse
Phyllis Grech, the pastry chef at Rabbit Hill Inn in Vermont, enjoys adding ricotta to a variety of pastries and other baked goods. She also uses ricotta in her coffee mousse, which has been a hit at the inn's restaurant.
Grilled Peaches with Lavender Honey Whipped Ricotta
Executive Chef Jonathan Olson at The Keep in Columbus, Ohio, said he prefers Italian ricotta, which has a thicker texture because of its higher fat content, to the American version. One of his favorite ways to use the cheese is to top roasted peaches with fresh ricotta, aged balsamic vinegar, and basil.
Ricotta Salata Salad
Ricotta salata, an aged and harder version of the cheese, adds a "salty kick" to salads, Olson said. He prefers simple salads, like arugula, olive oil, lemon, toasted pine nuts, and shaved ricotta salata.
Vincent Ricchiuti of Enzo Olive Oil Co. said he enjoys spreading ricotta on toast and topping with jam and a drizzle of olive oil. Ricotta toast offers endless possibilities, and it can be a great breakfast or snack.
Ricotta can add richness to any dish without the heaviness of many other kinds of cheese, said Justine Kelly, executive chef and co-founder of meal delivery company Sun Basket. She likes to use the cheese as a topping for flatbread.
Stuffed Squash Blossoms
Los Angeles-based chef Timothy Hollingsworth, owner of Los Angeles restaurant Otium, lists tempura squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta as one of his favorite ways to use the cheese. He pairs the blossoms with pistachio pesto.
Ricotta Cream Frosting
Don Baiocchi, founder of the Paleo Gluten-Free Guy blog, said he doesn't eat much dairy, but when he does, ricotta is a go-to. He makes ricotta cream frosting to top his grain-free Cassata Cake, an Italian Easter cake, with whole milk ricotta, honey or raw cane sugar, rum or Amaretto, and dark or bittersweet chocolate.
Now that you know some creative ways to use ricotta cheese, you can do way more with it than just bake Italian dishes. Although, if you are making lasagna, you can't go wrong by adding ricotta to it, too.