Baked Ricotta Infused with Thyme

Since we live in the country, we can’t really send those we’ve invited over for a glass of wine back to their homes fueled only by alcohol. I feel strongly about offering them food, but food that’s easy to put together, and this is often the spur-of-the-moment appetizer I’ll make. It takes no time at all to put together—in fact, less time than the oven will take to heat, which is why I sometimes use my toaster oven.

I bake my ricotta in a shallow Spanish earthenware dish so that the ricotta is no more than half an inch thick. If there’s liquid on top when I open a tub, I pour it off. Formerly, I simply adorned the ricotta with crisscrossed branches of thyme, which you have to remove when serving. Now I tend to infuse the ricotta with fresh thyme leaves as well. But here are some other ideas:

• Lay small tips or branches of rosemary on the surface of the cheese (rosemary is strong).

• Scatter breadcrumbs moistened in olive oil over the cheese to crisp and bake (or crisp the breadcrumbs beforehand and add them when you serve the cheese).

• Enhance the surface with red pepper flakes, black pepper or fresh or fried sage leaves.

• Serve the warm baked ricotta with crostini, roasted peppers, olives or tapenade, a relish of cherry tomatoes or the like.

When baked until golden and firm, the cheese can be cut into pieces (I like diamond shapes). It will be firm but tender and will still possess the ricotta’s delicate flavor. Leftovers will look dry and hopeless, but they regain their supple tenderness when added to a soup or a pasta dish—becoming, in fact, little dumplings. I assure you, none will be wasted.

Even though this is written as a recipe, I’ll just go ahead and bake whatever I have. One whole pint of ricotta makes quite a bit, especially if you have other goodies to go along with it. One cup baked in a smallish dish should be plenty for four to six servings.

By | August 31, 2017

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 8 sprigs thyme, plus 1 teaspoon or more plucked leaves
  • Coarsely ground pepper
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)

Preparation

Heat the oven or toaster oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a 2- to 3-cup, shallow baking dish. Pour off any liquid that may have risen around the cheese, then mix the ricotta with the plucked thyme leaves. Spread it evenly in the prepared dish. Drizzle the surface with more olive oil, arrange the thyme sprigs over the surface, and season with freshly cracked pepper. Bake, uncovered, until the top is golden and the sides start to pull away from the dish, 30 to 45 minutes, or longer if the layer of cheese is thicker. Let cool for 10 minutes, then pluck off the thyme sprigs, cut into squares or diamonds and serve.

About this recipe

Reprinted with permission from In My Kitchen by Deborah Madison, copyright © 2017. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 8 sprigs thyme, plus 1 teaspoon or more plucked leaves
  • Coarsely ground pepper
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
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