You may have noticed that I don't post many dessert recipes. I used to bake quite a lot, but got out of the habit while living in Italy, for various reasons. For one, my oven was miniscule so the cookie sheets didn't fit in it. Second, the flour was finer, the butter denser, and the oven temperature fluctuated like a yo-yo, so most of my baking attempts were sadly hindered. Then there is the whole gelato availability issue, meaning that it was just tastier and easier to walk to the gelateria (or pasticceria) for dessert, so why heat up the house and go through the baking frustration in the first place?
But when I had friends over I would prepare a little something to round out the meal. This traditional ricotta dessert comes from a 75-year Ascoli native who said it is a long-standing treat in Le Marche. It makes sense, since fresh ricotta is readily available (almost always made from sheep's milk), as is local honey. Fruit toppings can vary, and Serafino told us that the best winter topping is just a dusting of cocoa.
Folks, it doesn't get any simpler than this, but the flavor combo of these humble ingredients is fantastic.
Ricotta and Honey with Fruit or Cocoa
(Actually, that is about all there is to it, so it seems redundant to give a "recipe"!)
On dessert plates, portion out a heaping spoonful (about 1/3 cup on each plate) of the freshest ricotta cheese you can find. Drizzle with local wildflower honey (about 2 tsp. per portion). Top with chopped fresh fruit, grate on bittersweet chocolate, or dust with cocoa.
My favorite garnish is with fresh sugared cherries: wash a bunch of fresh cherries with the stems still attached. Do not dry. Dip each damp cherry in granulated sugar and set aside to dry. When the dessert is ready, arrange a few cherries on the plate and plop one on top of the ricotta.
Now that I think about it, this would be really nice with cherries that have been soaked in liquor, too!
photo credit: brettneilson