Carrie's Kitchen: Trio of recipes featuring ricotta, one of my favorites

Happy December! Does it feel like the end of the year to you? It doesn’t to me, but every time I get my receipt at the grocery store it tells me how much I’ve saved this year using my “club card,” and it’s almost $1,000 now, which seems shocking, and makes me realize it is December.

This month I’m writing about “a few of my favorite things.” Last week was about soups, a category, and this week is an ingredient that special to my heart: ricotta. I can be paging through recipe after recipe for the same type of dish, say a pasta or an appetizer, and then one includes ricotta and bells and whistles go off in my head. If I’m at a restaurant, and a dish has ricotta that I’m not expecting (such as a flatbread pizza or salad), then that’s what I order.


It’s just a simple food — just milk, lemon juice and salt — but perhaps that’s why it’s so good. Making it is supposed to be super easy, but as I’ve found with making homemade mozzarella, if you don’t have a really tasty source of milk, the cheese resulting from it isn’t going to taste that special either.

So here are three ways to use ricotta. First up, honey-roasted cherry and ricotta toast. This recipe uses fresh cherries, but I think it would be great with frozen cherries, which have the added bonus of being pre-pitted. Spread the ricotta on toasted Italian bread, roast cherries in the oven for about 15 minutes and then put them on the toast, and drizzle it with more honey and some balsamic vinegar. Mmm, mmm good.

Next, stuffed shells filled with ricotta, ground chicken, spinach and mushrooms. The recipe even includes a homemade tomato sauce. Filling shells takes a little time, but there are worst tasks you could be doing. Making these from scratch is going to give you great, fresh flavors without the preservatives of the frozen varieties.

And finally, a dish that could be a dessert or an appetizer, orange ricotta puff pastry tarts recipe with chunky cranberry sauce. Here you mix a little orange juice and orange peel with the ricotta, bake it on some pre-bought puff pastry, then make homemade cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries and sugar that you cook down on the stove and plop on the tarts at the end. Delish, and so colorful, perfect for the Christmas season.


Honey roasted cherry and ricotta toast

12 slices of Italian bread, each about ¼-inch thick

26 large very ripe cherries

2 tablespoons honey, plus more for drizzling

1-1/2 cups (12 ounces) fresh whole milk ricotta cheese

Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

Sea salt, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Remove the stems from the cherries. Do not remove the pits as this will release too much of the juice. Toss the cherries with 2 tablespoons honey and then spread them out evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cherries start to release their juices and the skins of the cherries start to wrinkle a bit.

Meanwhile, place the bread slices in an even layer on a baking sheet. Beat the ricotta in a large mixing bowl with a whisk or in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until as creamy as desired.


When you remove the cherries from the oven, put the bread slices in the oven and toast until golden, about 4 minutes per side.

While the bread is toasting, pit the cherries by making a small slice in the side of each cherry with a knife and the pit should just slip right out.

To serve, spread each slice of toast with 2 tablespoons ricotta, 2-3 pitted cherries, a drizzle of honey, a drizzle of balsamic and a pinch of sea salt.

Chicken ricotta stuffed shells

For pasta shells:

10 ounces of large shell pasta

For quick tomato sauce:

1 pint fresh cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon coconut sugar (or regular sugar)

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons finely grated onion

3 ounces tomato paste

For the filling:

1 pound ground chicken

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup finely chopped mushrooms

1 cup fresh spinach

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

3/4 cups ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

For pasta shells: Cook 1 minute less than package instructions, set aside to cool.

For quick tomato sauce: Add butter in a large sauce pan, and cook fresh cherry tomatoes till tender about 10 minutes. Add one-half cup stock to a blender and cooked cherry tomatoes. Blend until smooth. Once blended place back in sauce pan. Add tomato paste, salt, sugar, Italian seasoning, and finely grated onion to saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down temperature and simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside.

For the filling: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 1 tablespoon butter, and cook ground chicken cook about 4-5 minutes or until browned and set aside in a large bowl. Add remaining butter, chopped onion, and chopped mushrooms to sauce pan where you cooked the chicken, and cook about 5 minutes.

Add cooked vegetables, raw spinach, nutmeg, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to bowl with ground chicken. Place in fridge for 5 minutes or until cooled off (or somewhat cooled). After mixture is cooled, add ricotta cheese and cream. Mix thoroughly.

Assembling: In a large Pyrex dish, add all the tomato sauce to bottom of dish.

Now you're going to take your cooled shells, and fill with about 1-2 tablespoons of ricotta filling. Place each shell on top of the tomato sauce, and top with parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 minutes until heated through, then serve.

Orange ricotta puff pastry tarts recipe with chunky cranberry sauce

2 Puff pastry sheets (thawed)

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup cranberries

3 ounces ricotta cheese

1/2 orange peel and juice

1 egg

1 egg (whisked for egg wash)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and oil spray. Cut pastry sheets in to 18 even squares and place on cookie sheets.

Mix ricotta, orange juice and peel, egg in a medium bowl. Place the mixture in the center of each square, brush the sides with egg wash and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile boil water in a small pan and dissolve sugar. Add cranberries and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Allow to cool.

Take your tarts out of the oven and let cool, then top each one with cranberry sauce.