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Baked Ricotta – Easy Italian Appetizer

Baked Ricotta is a deliciously cheesy, creamy Italian dip.  Ricotta cheese is mixed with Pecorino Romano, mozzarella and herbs in this warm savory spread. It makes a tasty addition to a cheese board served with some crusty bread, crackers or crudités, either alone or topped with garlicky roasted cherry tomatoes.

A round white casserole dish filled with baked cheese dip surrounded by crostini and herbs.

Whether you spread it or dip it, a ricotta bake is a perfect appetizer for the holiday season, game day, a dinner party or just because you have ricotta in the fridge!

You will love how easy this baked ricotta recipe is to make and your guests will be impressed at how flavorful this simple appetizer is.  If you enjoy a hot dip, you are going to love this straight out of the oven!  But don’t worry it tastes just as good once it cools down to room temperature, making this the perfect party hors d’oeuvre. 

Creamy baked ricotta

“Ricotta infornata” or “ricotta al forno” (baked ricotta) is very popular in Sicily and in Sardinia, where it originated. It is truly a simple, rustic dish.  Traditionally a mound of ricotta is placed on a baking sheet and baked until it has formed a golden brown or even a charred crust. It is then served with a drizzle of olive oil and perhaps a sprinkle of course salt.  

This easy recipe, expands on the original by adding some fresh herbs, pecorino and mozzarella cheeses and a little lemon zest to enhance the natural sweetness of the ricotta cheese.  It is so delicious that you will want to enjoy all these Italian flavors by the spoonful right out of the oven!

If you love ricotta as much as I do, you will want to try my Cannoli FillingRicotta Cookies or Italian Cheesecake for a sweet treat. And if you would rather have something more savory be sure to try my  Cheese Ravioli. You won’t be sorry you did!

Ingredients for making a baked ricotta with labels on each ingredient.

Ingredient notes and substitutions 

  • Fresh Ricotta Cheese – Unless you make your own ricotta, you will most likely need to strain the ricotta to remove some the excess liquid. I recommend using whole milk ricotta to get the creamiest result.
  • Herbs – If you can, use fresh herbs.  You can use whatever herbs you like. I used fresh thyme and rosemary but feel free to add basil, oregano, chives, etc.  You can also use a teaspoon of Italian seasoning in place of the fresh herbs.
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese – GratedI love the savory saltiness that pecorino brings to this simple recipe.  If you prefer you can use Parmesan Cheese instead.
  • Mozzarella Cheese- Shredded.  Use full fat mozzarella if you can.

Step by Step instructions for making this Ricotta Bake Appetizer

  1. Combine the ricotta, mozzarella and pecorino romano cheeses, thyme, rosemary, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and black pepper in a medium bowl and mix well.
  2. Transfer the ricotta mixture to a casserole dish that has been brushed with olive oil or cooking spray and drizzle a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil over the top.
  3. Bake in a 400°F oven for 25-30 minutes. 
  4. Remove the ricotta bake from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Cooking tips

  • If the ricotta cheese you are using is watery, make sure to strain it.  Line a fine mesh sieve with a cheese cloth and place it over a bowl.  Put the ricotta in the sieve, cover it with plastic wrap and leave it in the refrigerator for several hours.  Discard the excess liquid that has drained out of the ricotta.
  • Bake the dip right before serving it.  It is best when eaten soon after being baked.
  • The dip can be mixed and placed in the baking dish earlier in the day.  Store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it.

Variations and serving ideas

Baked ricotta is perfect as is and served as a spread or a dip with vegetables, crostini or crackers, but here are some suggestions for dressing it up a bit.

  • Sprinkle some additional pecorino and mozzarella over the top.
  • Try different types of cheese in the ricotta mixture.  Fontina, parmesan and asiago are some of my favorites.
  • Spice it up by adding red pepper flakes or chopped Italian pepperoncini to the mixture before baking it.
  • Pour marinara sauce and additional mozzarella over the top before putting in the oven.
  • Serve roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic with it as an additional topping.
  • Other additional topping ideas: caponata, olives or slices of roasted red peppers.
  • Make a double batch and enjoy the leftovers as a light lunch the next day.
Crostini with cheese spread on them and tomatoes on a board with lemons and herbs.

Storing leftovers

​If you have any of this tasty spread leftover, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate it.  Stored properly it will last up to 3 days.

I have never tried to freeze baked ricotta so I cannot say how well that will work.

FAQ

What is ricotta cheese?

Ricotta literally means “recooked” in Italian.  It can be made from the whey of sheep, goat, cow or Italian water buffalo milk which is leftover from making other types of cheeses.  The whey is then “recooked” and is either allowed to become acidic naturally or an acid like lemon juice is added to it.  The acid causes the proteins in the whey to coagulate and form soft ricotta curds which are then strained away from the liquid.  If you would like more information on Ricotta and it’s history check out these articles in Wikipedia and The Tasting Table.

What does ricotta taste like?

Ricotta curds are usually soft and fluffy with a mild slightly sweet flavor.  It’s mild taste makes it ideal for use in both sweet and savory dishes. The curds give the cheese a somewhat grainy texture. If you want a really creamy ricotta , you can run it though the food processor for a few seconds to break down the curds even more.

Crostini with a cheese spread on them on a board with herbs and lemons next to a plate of roasted tomatoes.

More appetizer recipes for you

A few quick and easy appetizers with huge flavors you will want to try my Hot Honey Salmon Bites, Lemon Pepper Chicken wings or Garlic, Herb and Honey Grilled Shrimp.

Some vegetarian options are my Gouda Stuffed Mushrooms, Easy Guacamole, or Spinach Phyllo Pockets.

I love to get your feedback so if you tried this Baked Ricotta or any other recipes on this website, please leave me a comment below.  I hope you enjoy our recipes and look forward to hearing from you!

You can also follow me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest for more recipes your family will love!

A white bowl of baked cheese dip surrounded by crostini and herbs.

Baked Ricotta

Baked ricotta is an easy traditional Italian appetizer that served warm or at room temperature. It is creamy, cheesy and delicious. Perfect as a spread or dip with crostini, vegetables or crackers.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine Italian
Servings 1 bowl
Calories 1274 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 15 oz Ricotta cheese whole milk, drained
  • ¼ cup Mozzarella Cheese shredded
  • ½ cup Pecorino Romano Cheese grated
  • 2 tsp Thyme fresh, chopped
  • 1 tspe Rosemary fresh, chopped
  • 1 tsp Lemon Zest about 1 lemon
  • ½ tsp Kosher Salt
  • ¼ tsp Black Pepper ground
  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Brush the inside of a casserole dish or baking pan with olive oil
  • Mix the ricotta, mozzarella, pecorino romano, thyme, rosemary, lemon zest, salt, pepper and 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil in a medium bowl until evenly combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish and drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil over the top.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top of ricotta is golden brown and the edges are bubbling. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

Cooking tips

  • If the ricotta cheese you are using is watery, make sure to strain it.  Line a fine mesh sieve with a cheese cloth and place it over a bowl.  Put the ricotta in the sieve, cover it with plastic wrap and leave it in the refrigerator for several hours.  Discard the excess liquid that has drained out of the ricotta.
  • Bake the dip right before serving it.  It is best when eaten soon after being baked.
  • The dip can be mixed and placed in the baking dish earlier in the day.  Store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it.

 

Nutrition

Serving: 1bowlCalories: 1274kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 70gFat: 103gSaturated Fat: 51gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 42gCholesterol: 291mgSodium: 2297mgPotassium: 555mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 2514IUVitamin C: 10mgCalcium: 1589mgIron: 3mg
Keyword Spread, Dip, Ricotta, easy, baked, cheese,
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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5 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is great warm or cold on toasted crostini. Try it with the roasted tomatoes on this site – it’s a way wonderful twist on bruschetta.

    1. Amy Thank you for letting me know you like this. You are right it is wonderful with the roasted tomatoes!

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