Ricotta is a versatile cheese, used as a pasta filling, dip base or cheesecake ingredient. The cheese is traditionally made from the whey left behind from the process of making mozzarella or provolone. Modern chefs often use a simple method whereby milk is heated and an acidic ingredient, for example lemon juice, separates the milk’s curds which are then removed. Whether homemade or store-bought, to spread ricotta requires a bit patience, as the cheese’s consistency is often thick and may be difficult to distribute gently and evenly.

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Smear the ricotta on crusty bread. Using a large spoon, drop a dollop of ricotta onto a piece of bread that will hold up well under pressure. Press down on the ricotta dollop with the back of the spoon and spread it evenly across the bread, pushing bits of the cheese into corners of the bread that are not covered. Top with grilled tomato or peppers.

Drop clumps of ricotta onto lasagna pasta and then gently smooth the clumps together. Using a large spoon, drop clumps of ricotta evenly spaced across one layer of cooked lasagna pasta. Using a spatula or the back of the spoon, smooth the clumps together by taking ricotta from the top of each cheese clump and filling in the spaces in between. Be careful to do this slowly and gently, so as to ensure the pasta sheet does not tear and any sauce remains underneath the ricotta.

Spoon ricotta into a bowl and dip into the bowl with a piece of bread. Ricotta mixed with herbs and olive oil is a savory dip; spoon the mixture onto a piece of dried crusty bread one bite at a time, or dip the bread into the bowl and use it to scoop up the contents. Due to the richness of the flavor, it may be best to start slow before tackling the meal.