Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Treccine di Ricotta (Easter Ricotta Braid)

These cookies have become one of my family favorite Easter treat. The addition of fresh ricotta cheese in the recipe makes these cookies very airy and light. 

Although you can find ricotta all year round at the grocery store, it is a seasonal ingredient. After all, ricotta is made from fresh milk and spring is when most cows, goats and sheep are sent out to graze on fresh, new grass. Their milk (and the cheese made from it) takes an uncomparable quality and flavor that is hard to find other times of the year. This is probably why most cheesemakers start their cheese production in spring and most Italian Easter recipes call for ricotta.

Treccine di Ricotta (Easter Ricotta Braid)
The recipe is adapted from Luca Montersino, one of the most famous and influential Italian pastry chefs in the modern Italian pastry scenery. I included a lemon glaze to make the cookies look more festive and enhance their citrus flavor. 

  • 7 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Zest one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
For the glaze
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • juice 1 lemon
  • sprinkle for decoration
Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a mixing bowl mix the ricotta cheese with the sugar, the lemon zest and the vanilla extract. 

Separately, whisk all the dry ingredients together and add them to the ricotta mixture. Mix everything together to form a dough. 

Divide the dough in 7 pieces and form logs with each piece. Shape each log into a simple braid. Place the braids in the baking pan. 

Bake the braids for about 15 minutes or  until the bottoms turn golden brown. Let cool for 1 minute and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. 
In a small saucepan slowly stir lemon juice into the powdered sugar until it creates a glaze thin enough to be spread over the cookies. Stir over low heat then spread over cooled cookies.

Quickly top with sprinkles.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Torta Rustica (Savory Cake with Spinach, Ricotta and Fresh Herbs)

This delicious savory cake is filled with ricotta and seasoned with spring herbs, spinach, onions and pecorino Romano. You can assemble the cake up to 24 hours ahead and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake. You may need to add a few minutes onto the baking time, so watch it closely toward the end. Then, serve it for brunch, a light lunch accompanied with salad or as a first course at a dinner party. 

Torta Rustica (Savory Cake with Spinach, Ricotta and Fresh Herbs)
  • 4 eggs
  • 10 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 1 cup pecorino Romano, grated
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 pound spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 1 garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoon parsley
  • Extra Virgin olive oil as needed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the ricotta and pecorino until combined. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a cooking pan saute the onions with olive oil on medium heat until translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add spinach, arugula, herbs and garlic and cooked until spinach is soft and turn into a deep green color. Let it cool and if desired, process it for a smoother texture. 

Mix the cooled spinach mixture with the ricotta mixture. Adjust flavor with salt and pepper to taste. Add the walnuts on top and place the mixture in an oiled pie pan. 

Bake at 350 F until the cake is puffy and golden brown. About 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.