Baked ricotta with spinach and prosciutto

The weeks before Christmas always seem so hectic. In addition to the flurry of Christmas parties, there is the mad rush of buying presents and planning food for your Christmas feast. That is when I love the comfort of simple home-cooked food, pre-prepared and waiting for me when I get home after a busy day.

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Baked ricotta is one of those dishes. I often make it late at night, throwing the ingredients together, baking it and then letting it cool overnight. This recipe is a slight variation on my regular baked ricotta, as I added some silver beet I had in the fridge. The prosciutto is also an addition – next time I would put a few more slices as the three slices I put as a layer weren’t enough to get that salty prosciutto hit. You could put a layer of basil pesto or olive tapenade through the middle in place of the prosciutto, or you could replace the spinach with finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes throughout. There are endless variations of this recipe. I always put lemon zest through the ricotta – it gives it such a fresh flavour. I love eating baked ricotta cold with a salad or sliced onto bread. It will keep for 3 or 4 days in the fridge, so should see you through a few busy light dinners before the joyous madness that is Christmas.

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baked ricotta with spinach and prosciutto

750g (1 lb 10oz) fresh ricotta
1 bunch greens (spinach or silver beet), tough stalks trimmed
4 medium sized eggs
150g (5-6 oz) grated parmigiano cheese
small lemon, zest only
salt and pepper to taste
4 or 5 slices prosciutto (or regular ham)
olive oil for brushing on the top

Rinse the spinach and blanch for a couple of minutes in a large pot of boiling water. Drain well, chop finely and set aside to cool. In a large bowl place the ricotta and mash it with a fork, adding the eggs, lemon zest, cheese, cooled spinach and salt and pepper to taste.

Place half the mixture in a lined 22cm (9″) diameter cake tin with a removable base, then layer on the prosciutto before adding the rest of the ricotta mixture. Flatten with the back of a large spoon and brush on a bit of olive oil. Bake in a preheated 160 C/320F oven for 60 minutes until golden and firm. Allow to cool in the tin. Serve wedges of baked ricotta at room temperature with a salad. It is also delicious as a sandwich filling.

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