Ever since I found the 2-lb container of whole milk ricotta on sale at Hannaford’s last week I’ve been preoccupied with thoughts of what to do with it. Inspiration came from so many web cooking sources – pasta dishes, cheesecakes, pound cakes, quick mousses, blintzes!
Yesterday the solution came in the form of both a dinner entreé and a dessert – Baked Penne with a ricotta, mozzarella and romano cheese blend (yay, another excuse to use the new Emile Henry Rectangular Baker!) , and lemony ricotta pound cake adapted from Giada’s poundcake recipe. Together the two dishes would require the exact contents of that container, leaving no sad little leftover dollops of ricotta cheese to repurpose some other day.
I mixed the cheese blend for the ziti early in the day and there it waited for full dish assembly while the poundcake baked and filled the house with a sweet lemony aroma. The batter on the spatula was just as I’d hoped – creamy and refreshing – so my hopes for the poundcake were high. Unfortunately, the decision to use my Breville countertop oven versus the Big Oven produced a cake that browned on top but sank in the middle and was underdone except for some of the slices pictured below. Even with a toothpick coming out clean, I was duped – but the baked-through portion told me this was worth repeating. Very much like the lemony yogurt poundcake I’ve made many times – light, moist, lovely on its own but also screaming for a raspberry or strawberry garnish:
LEMONY RICOTTA POUNDCAKE
1-1/2 cups cake flour (or take 3 tbsp of AP flour out of the quantity and substituted cornstarch for cake flour in a pinch)
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1-1/2 cups whole milk ricotta
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest and juice from one lemon (2 tbsp juice)
Confectioners sugar, about 1 tbsp
Butter a 9 x 5″ loaf pan and place a piece of parchment on the bottom to make release of the cake easy. Preheat oven to 350. In a small mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle, cream together the ricotta, butter and sugar about 3 minutes. then add the eggs one at a time while continuing to mix. Add vanilla, lemon juice & zest and then gradually add in the flour, beating until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake about 50 minutes until top is golden brown and sides pull a bit away from pan. Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes before turning out of the pan to cool completely. When completely cooled, dust with confectioners sugar.
Much better results with the baked penne, a recipe I adapted from The Splendid Table:
BAKED PENNE WITH RICOTTA
About 5 cups of your favorite marinara sauce (when not making my own, it’s Trader Joe’s Low-Fat Tuscano Marinara)
2 cups whole milk ricotta
8 ounces shredded whole milk mozzarella
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup grated pecorino romano
2 large eggs lightly beaten
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
A few grinds of white pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350. Combine the ricotta, mozzarella, and 1/2 cup of romano with the eggs, parsley, oregano and salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Cook the penne in salted boiling water until al dente, and drain. Toss the pasta with a bit of the marinara, just enough to lightly coat, and then add 1/3 of it in a layer to your 9 x 13 rectangular baker. Add 1/3 of the cheese mixture in dollops and then 1/3 of your sauce. Repeat this two times, and finish off by sprinkling with the remaining 1/4 cup of grated romano.
NOTE: While this was essentially a meatless dish, I did add a couple of slices of rosemary ham chopped up – not enough for a sandwich, but just enough for a flavor boost when inserted atop one of the middle layers)
Bake covered with foil for 30 minutes, then uncovered for 15 minutes. Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.