Ricotta cheese is a by-product of whey, the liquids formed during the cheese making process. The creamy white curds are the result of two high temperature processings, as well as a fermentation. Ricotta can be made from the milk of cows, sheep, goats and water buffalo, but most ricotta purchased in the United States comes from cow’s milk, and can be of the whole milk, part skim, or fat free variety.
Ricotta is an integral ingredient in an Italian Easter menu. Ravioli, stuffed shells, manicotti and lasagna are served either as a first course or a main course for Easter Sunday dinner in most Italian families. All feature ricotta as the star attraction. Ricotta’s creamy texture and tangy flavor perk up the pasta component in each of these recipes. Imagine any of these dishes without the ricotta and there is nothing to imagine.
Ricotta’s superstar quality doesn’t end with the main course. Cannoli, ricotta pies, cheese cake and cookies can all be made using ricotta cheese.
It’s not too late to bake for Easter. Here’s a recipe for Italian Ricotta Cookies that are traditional favorites not only for Easter, but for Christmas too.
Italian Ricotta Cookies for Easter
Makes 3 dozen cookies. This recipe can be doubled.
Grease cookie sheet or use parchment paper. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
Ingredients for the cookies:
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. whole milk ricotta
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
2 cups flour
Ingredients for the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tsps. almond extract, lemon juice, or vanilla (depending on your flavor preference)
A few teaspoons of milk
Directions for the cookies:
1. Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add eggs, vanilla, and ricotta and continue mixing.
3. Add the salt and baking powder to the flour, and then begin adding the flour mixture to the wet ingredients about ½ cup at a time, until all the flour has been incorporated into the batter.
4. Drop dough by teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet. Leave room for cookies to spread.
5. Bake until edges begin to brown – about 10 minutes.
6. Cool completely before icing.
Directions for the icing:
1. Mix all icing ingredients together in a small mixing bowl, carefully adding the wet ingredients to the sugar until you have a consistency that is easy to spread on the cookies. Alternatively you can dip the cookies into the icing mixture.
2. Immediately shake sprinkles over icing.
Happy Easter everyone!
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