Ricotta is an underappreciated cheese, more so when you consider its versatility. I always found it underwhelming on its own, with a sweetness less delicate than bocconcini and a texture not unlike an overcooked cheddar sauce. (See? It’s difficult to savour when you’re busy accidentally conjuring unwelcome comparisons.)
Even when Quality Cheese Inc.’s Ricotta won the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, it seemed to be a bit of an upset: It was the first time in the history of the competition (so, since 1998) that a fresh cheese had been crowned Grand Champion. Though judge Michael Howell said all the nice things he should about the cheese when he spoke about it on Canada AM, even he seemed surprised when he recounted how the panel re-tasted all of the other cheeses with high marks after they discovered the ricotta had come out on top.
So it was with a tipple of trepidation that I recently tried How to Eat’s Roasted Grape and Ricotta Crostini recipe. I love sweet and savoury combinations, but I almost swapped the ricotta for goat cheese at the last second – it’s not every day I indulge in soft, carby baguette, and I wanted to savour it, recipe be damned. But I persevered.
Holy Mimolette, am I ever glad I did. The sweetness that I always found approached the neighbourhood of off-putting (with only one logical mayor) instead transformed into a light-on-its-feet partner for both the rich, dominant grapes and kick of thyme. What a wonderful surprise. It’s quickly become one of my new favourite flavour combinations.
The only other time I can remember buying ricotta before this was to use in lasagne, and using a cheese only to sink it into another dish beyond recognition is a consolation prize at best.
Ricotta blipped on my radar with the win early last year, but it waited for me to come to it. It’s content to play the long game. Like its brief emergence of sweetness, you may catch a wistful appearance every now and again, but it’ll fly solo until its complexities reveal themselves. Robyn sang a song about this very instance. At least, if you replace ricotta with the girl and ricotta neophytes with the boy.
Tell me that song doesn’t get more fun with cheese as the stars. (Aforementioned Mimolette is totally the other woman, btw.)