There are innumerable cheeses that deserve a singular spotlight, the strong, oh-so-uniquely flavored cheeses that don't like to share the stage with others, so formidable that they're best enjoyed on their own, without unnecessary, condimental fanfare. But what about a cheese whose merit, more than anything else, lies in its ability to complement other foods?
Here, an intro to ricotta salata, the saltier, aged version of its fresher cohort. It's great for slicing, crumbling, and grating, and it's sure to be one of your newest favorite cheeses, especially with our following top ten pointers on what foods it compliments best. And with a price tag of just $5.99/lb, it's one of the more affordable cheeses available these days. But don't worry: its cost is inversely proportionate to its ability to elevate your cooking.
We talk a good deal about ricotta, which when made right, can taste more of milk or cream than cheese. With the addition of salt (hence, "salata"), two months of age, and some pressing, ricotta looses moisture and becomes crumbly. Ricotta Salata maintains a unique freshness, perhaps that milky quality of ricotta, but changes in texture, becoming dry and spongy, almost like an aged feta. It's sharper, too, from that extra dose of salt.
It's a welcome addition to your refrigerated pantry, not only because of its price, but because of its ability to bridge the gap between the seasons. It works as well atop a plate of the season's last beets or apples as it does over spring's first dose of asparagus.
Realize that you can cube it, shave it, grate it, or slice it, in any of these applications.
Try these combinations with Ricotta Salata:
- Atop a salad of arugula with beets and apples, finished with a squeeze from an orange slice and your best olive oil
- Tossed into fregola with roasted zucchini, moroccan olives, and rosemary
- Another salad idea: into a light herb salad of dill, chervil, taragon, basil, chives, baby greens, radishes, and a bit of lemon zest
- Added to blood orange segments, fennel, pear, hazelnuts, and parsley leaves
- Finish a spring pasta of pea shoots, lemon, and grilled radicchio with a hefty grating
- Use it atop a chilled cucumber soup as a garnish
- Anywhere you'd use feta, try ricotta salata: in a sandwich, in a scramble, or on a burger
- Into a side dish of roasted fingerling potatoes, fava beans, and mint
- As the finisher for a saute of lemony kale
- Into a watermelon salad with pine nuts, basil, and olive oil
Or perhaps you have some suggestions?
Ricotta Salata is available at Whole Foods for $5.99/lb.
Related: Top Five Things to Do with Ricotta
Photos: Nora Singley for the Kitchn