Last month Megan declared baked ricotta "the best appetizer you haven't met yet." Intrigued (who wouldn't be?), I gave it a try and suddenly baked ricotta is the best appetizer I've only recently met. It's the new thing, the current crush, the little bite that perfectly straddles the divide between old-fashioned, stodgy hot appetizers and fresher, more modern tastes. If you like to have something hot on the table to start a party, then let us convince you to also make baked ricotta's acquaintance.
When planning my sister's bridal shower, I decided I wanted to have a hot appetizer on the table as a nice complement to all the cold food (smoked salmon sandwiches, fruit, salad cups). Baked ricotta was of course the answer, especially since it was so easy. It took me literally 5 minutes to mix up this ricotta and put it in the oven, which is simply not much work for a hot appetizer that made the ladies swoon.
As Megan pointed out in her post, baked ricotta often includes an egg for a soufflé-like rise and airiness, but I skipped it here to keep things extra-easy and simple. This ricotta just has lemon, garlic, and chives, with a finishing drizzle of good olive oil.
Mix and bake, and the result is a creamy, warm dip that beats any store-bought cheese ball or dip with fresh flavors. We used nutty crackers to scoop up the dip, but it would also be wonderful on plain or toasted baguette.
Baked Ricotta with Lemon, Garlic, & Chives
Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer
15 ounces (about 2 cups) whole milk ricotta 1 large lemon, zested and juiced 2 large cloves garlic, minced 1 ounce fresh chives, minced (about 1/2 cup) 1/2 teaspoon salt Freshly ground black pepper Extra-virgin olive oil Small crackers or slices of baguette, to serve
Heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 1/2- to 1-quart gratin dish or baking pan.
Mix the ricotta, lemon juice and zest, garlic, chives, and salt, and a generous quantity of fresh black pepper. Spread in the baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. (At this point you can cover and refrigerate the ricotta overnight, if desired.)
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until hot. Drizzle again with olive oil. Serve immediately with crackers for dipping.