One of the best tricks in my vegetarian bag o’ magic is ricotta cheese. To me, ricotta is a texture more than a flavor. It’s smooth and creamy with a hint of curd-like texture. I find that the curdiness makes ricotta cheese feel more substantial, like there’s a there there, as Gertrude Stein would say. It’s pretty bland, as far as cheeses go, but it more than makes up for that quality in terms of its nutrition and flexibility. I tend to choose part-skim ricotta, rather than full-fat, because I don’t feel the need for that extra richness when I’m cooking with ricotta. I’m not much of a fat-gram counter, but here I feel it’s worth mentioning that Frigo part-skim ricotta has 6 grams of fat per quarter-cup serving, and that seems plenty rich to me.
Ricotta is a good way to add protein to an otherwise carbohydrate-heavy meal. With a vegetarian diet, it’s easy to get plenty of carbs, and if that’s your eating style, I think it’s important to balance out the meal with protein and fat. I’ve heard people say that Americans eat too much protein anyway, but I’m not sure how an “average” vegetarian diet stacks up in that analysis. Protein is, for me, a key ingredient in building a meal that satisfies, one that doesn’t leave me looking for a snack an hour or two later. Ricotta is one of my favorite ways to add protein to my meal. It works well in savory and sweet dishes, even as a pudding on its own (and a stunningly good one too!). To give you an idea of what I like to do with ricotta, I dug into my archives to find some of my favorite ricotta-containing recipes.
Savories for your dinner table:
And for your sweet tooth:
Dear readers, if you have a favorite recipe or two that uses ricotta, feel free to leave links or recipes in the comments! Also, when it comes to ricotta, do you go for a full-fat version or do you prefer “skinnier” ricotta?