This simple dish is a great appetizer recipe that is quick and easy to make. It can be mixed by hand or in the food processor if you want a smoother texture. A perfect addition to a brunch table, as a dip in a charcuterie or cheese board, or as a light lunch if you make it as a crustless pie.
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Originally posted in September 2014, the text and images have been updated to serve you better. A gluten-free option has been added to the original recipe.
We are fans of ricotta cheese here, for its versatility mostly, and even though our most popular recipes are sweet (ricotta pie and crustless ricotta cheesecake), in time we added savory ones like pizza rustica or ricotta toast.
Today I'm sharing a great appetizer, a crowd-pleasing cheese dip, different from the usual ones, with more texture and Mediterranean flavors.
About this recipe
- Very easy to make: it comes together with little effort. Simply mix or process the ingredients, dump them in a baking dish, and bake as directed until golden brown. That's it.
- Flavorings: not only with the ingredients as you can add other cheeses together with the parmesan, but you can also serve it with different toppings.
- Make ahead: it keeps well for a few days in the fridge, so you can plan ahead when making it. Simply reheat it when ready to serve.
- Serving it: you can serve it as a baked ricotta dip on its own, as part of a charcuterie board, or add some flour and make a crustless ricotta quiche.
I give you two options, as a dip or as a crustless pie. Both are fantastic.
For creamy ricotta dip:
- Ricotta: use full fat for a richer result. That said, you can use low-fat ricotta, especially from a good source.
- Cream: heavy cream, whipping cream, or double cream, they all work. A small amount is used for a smoother texture.
- Cheese: I use parmesan and sometimes mix it with another semi-hard cheese like fontina. You want it to have saltiness and sharp flavor.
- Eggs: fresh, large.
- Oil: olive oil is my first choice always and I never use others. But you can. Melted butter also works instead of oil and can be used interchangeably.
- Salt: I like to use kosher salt when baking. But regular table salt works just fine.
- Black pepper: freshly ground is always the best.
- Herbs: there are several that work well for this recipe and I usually use thyme, chives, basil, and sometimes fresh oregano leaves. Parsley also works well and rosemary can also be used but it's stronger, so be careful with the amount.
- Spice: I use red pepper flakes or Merken (smoked paprika).
For crustless ricotta quiche:
- Ingredients above.
- All-purpose flour: adding flour will make it firmer, allowing it to be cut into portions.
About ricotta cheese
Ricotta is a soft, grainy cheese made from cow's milk in this case (though it can also be made with goat, sheep, or buffalo milk). The type I use for all of my recipes is the regular ricotta sold in supermarkets or specialty stores (image below).
It's creamy, moist, and sometimes can have an almost sweet taste.
Quality varies according to brands and you can find some with additives to make it thicker or whatever. I try to buy original ricotta sourced from good small producers. It tastes much better and I like the consistency more.
Does ricotta cheese melt in the oven?
No, it doesn't. It will still be grainy, a texture that can be somewhat smoothed out by processing it.
Can you freeze ricotta cheese?
Yes, you can, but the texture will not be the same after you thaw it. So it will not be great for all recipes. It can be used for this one and for pizza rustica because it will be mixed with other ingredients and baked again. But it's not ideal for ricotta toast for example.
There are two ways to put together this super easy recipe: by hand or in the food processor. It will depend on what texture you want to achieve.
Both methods retain ricotta's grainy texture because it's what sets it apart.
- By hand: you'll get a grainy, almost crumbly ricotta cheese dip. You need a medium bowl and a wooden spoon, whisk, or spatula. You simply need to combine the ingredients together making sure the eggs are well incorporated.
- In the food processor: this is great for smoothing out the ricotta mixture a little. It's my favorite way. There's no need for a lot of processing, but it does integrate the ingredients better than by hand.
Make sure you don't overbake it. Ricotta is grainy by itself, and if you dry it more in the oven it will be too pasty and crumbly. This is especially important if you're not serving it right away and you'll need to reheat it the next day.
When is it done? When the top is lightly golden brown but the center still jiggles slightly.
Serving baked ricotta
- Temperature: this baked ricotta appetizer can be served warm or at room temperature. I find it way better hot or warm, topped by baked cherry tomatoes.
- Crackers or pita chips: after trying it several ways, a crunchy cracker or oven-dried thin toast is the best way to let it shine. French crusty bread for example is too mushy with that soft crumb.
- Charcuterie board: make one with Mediterranean flavors and add this delicious dip alongside olives, breadsticks, crackers, baked tomatoes and garlic cloves, other dips like the eggplant hummus, fresh and dried fruit, and nuts.
- Light lunch: if you make the crustless ricotta quiche (see recipe card for details), it makes a great plate with a salad, especially for hot weather months.
Making a crustless ricotta quiche
If going this route, you'll be adding flour to the recipe and the result will be a more consistent and firmly baked ricotta recipe that you'll serve in wedges.
So toppings are the way to go and they can be customized to your palate.
- Mediterranean veggies: just like we suggest for the dip, oven bake tomatoes, garlic, red onion, zucchini, eggplant, and other vegetables and pile them up when serving the quiche.
- Pizza style: use your favorite topping, from traditional pepperoni or sausage to veggie or tomato sauce and mozzarella.
- Cheese: add some melting cheese like mozzarella or taleggio or maybe blue cheese to the ricotta cheese mixture.
- Lemon and garlic: add oven-baked garlic, a teaspoon of lemon juice, and a teaspoon of lemon zest to the ricotta, and use fresh herbs like thyme or oregano.
- Organization: read the recipe first and make sure you have ingredients at the right temperatures, equipment needed, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier!
- Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. Use a thermometer inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that the temperature is right. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Ricotta: I buy the regular cheese and add heavy cream. But you can sometimes find ricotta with cream so you have it all in one place.
- Storing baked ricotta: it lasts at least four days in the refrigerator, always covered in plastic wrap or in an airtight container, and reheats beautifully. I don't recommend freezing it as it will change a lot after you defrost it, even if you warm it in the oven.
Related recipes you might like:
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For the ricotta:
- 2 ½ cups fresh ricotta (1 pound + 2 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons cream
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Black pepper
- ¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (or melted butter)
For the topping:
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 6 garlic cloves
- Olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh thyme and basil leaves (or other herbs you use)
For crustless ricotta quiche:
- Ingredients above
- ¼ cup flour
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180°C.
For the tomatoes:
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (you can omit it but it's less messy) and place halved tomatoes and unpeeled garlic cloves.
- Drizzle with a few swirls of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until soft. If you use the tomatoes whole pierce them with a fork once or twice before baking so they don't explode in the oven.
- Let the oven on.
For the baked ricotta:
- By hand: in a large mixing bowl, mix ricotta with cream, eggs, salt, pepper, and parmesan. Mix well with a hand beater or wooden spoon. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil or melted butter.
- In a food processor: put ricotta in the bowl and process for a minute. Add cream, salt, pepper, eggs, oil, and cheese and process a few times just until well combined, about 30 seconds. Don't overprocess.
- Transfer to an oiled or buttered 9-inch round baking dish, spread evenly, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until lightly brown on top.
- Mound tomatoes and peeled chopped garlic cloves on top of the ricotta, and top with herbs.
- Drizzle with olive oil, some salt, and pepper, and serve with crackers, pita chips, or very thin toasted bread slices.
For the crustless ricotta quiche:
- Follow the instructions above, adding the flour at the end and mixing lightly. Don't beat.
- Bake until mostly firm but still slightly jiggly in the middle.
- Serve in wedges with tomatoes, garlic, and herbs.
Organization: read the recipe first and make sure you have ingredients at the right temperatures, equipment needed, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier!
Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. Use a thermometer inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that the temperature is right. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
Ricotta: I buy the regular cheese and add heavy cream. But you can sometimes find ricotta with cream so you have it all in one place.
Storing baked ricotta: it lasts at least four days in the refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap or in an airtight container, and reheats beautifully. I don't recommend freezing it as it will change a lot after you defrost it, even if you warm it in the oven.
Make ahead: it keeps well for a few days in the fridge, so you can plan ahead when making it. Simply reheat it when ready to serve.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Appetizers
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: International
- Serving Size: ⅛
- Calories: 290
- Sugar: 0.9 g
- Sodium: 357.5 mg
- Fat: 24.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 4.3 g
- Fiber: 0.3 g
- Protein: 13.5 g
- Cholesterol: 94.6 mg
Keywords: baked ricotta
Inspired by Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book