When you combine mild ricotta cheese with fresh thyme, garlic, lemon zest, Parmesan, and bake it all together, you get the perfect dip for parties or last minute guests. A super easy recipe that is full of complex flavors, you can’t go wrong with this Baked Ricotta with Lemon, Thyme, and Parmesan Cheese. You’ll be making this again and again.
I made this new favorite dip the other day for a gathering with some of my most trusted recipe taste-testers. And by “most trusted” I mean the people who will tell it like it is, not say nice things (or nothing) so not to offend my tender sensibilities. Well, these friends confirmed what I already knew. This is my IT appetizer for the season. My “drop by anytime, I’ll make Baked Ricotta” because the ingredients will always be on hand.
These women picked the recipe apart, loving the hint of lemon, a tiny bit of heat from red pepper flakes and cayenne. Perfect bits of garlic and shallots, and with a texture that’s both smooth and substantial at the same time. I was among critiquing greatness as they scooped the perfect bite onto their crispy baguettes before smelling, and savoring bite after bite. Before the night was over pictures of the dip were being texted to friends who missed the party, telling them they’d really missed out and they’ve been bugging me ever since to “hurry and post the recipe!”. I knew I had a winner because these gals have hit me hard before with “not your best” or “it needs something”. Not this time…
When I saw the original recipe on Alexandra Cooks, I immediately knew it was for me – Hello cheese, lemon, thyme! The ricotta (full fat is best) is a perfect base for other ingredients, with it’s mild but slightly sweet flavor. Lemon zest and thyme leaves balance each other with tartness and piney sharpness. Alexandra’s recipe added some Parmesan cheese to the dip and I decided to also add a handful of shredded Italian cheeses for a bit of cheesy-pull in every bite and upped the garlic flavor with my favorite allium, shallots. Shallots helped to spotlight the garlic even further in the dip. The addition of extra virgin olive oil is killer for even more flavor, and it helps all the flavors meld together. But the best part of the recipe is that you just chop and zest ingredients, stir it all together and bake for just a few minutes until bubbly and melty. Go.Make.This.Dip!
What is ricotta cheese?
Ricotta is a creamy white, mild, fresh cheese with a soft texture and a slightly sweet flavor, like a fine-textured cottage cheese and can be eaten as is with a little salt, pepper and fresh herbs, although it is more commonly used in Italian pasta dishes and desserts.
What is the difference between ricotta and cottage cheese?
Ricotta cheese is made from the whey and cottage cheese made from the curd in their completion process. They are interchangeable in some recipes but not all. If you want to use cottage cheese in a recipe, usually for lower calories, you need to blend the cottage cheese first to help create the smooth texture that is ricotta. Ricotta tastes a little sweeter so is used often in desserts where as cottage cheese is a little sharper of a flavor and often substituted in dishes like lasagna. I have not substituted cottage cheese in the baked ricotta recipe so if you can’t find ricotta or want to try it, just know you’re on your own and it might not create the same (perfect) texture.
Before you begin-
This dip is best right out of the oven, baked in a small baking dish or small oven-proof skillet, but I did experiment with keeping out some dip to reheat the following day. Let me tell you it was still super delicious, while a bit more thick and not as pretty looking the next day. If you’re wanting to make it ahead of time, stir together all the ingredients except for the olive oil and refrigerate until the day of serving. Just before serving, add the olive oil, turn it out into your dish or skillet and then bake just as your guests arrive. Another thing that is fabulous with leftovers, if you have any- spread the cold or room temperature dip on bread for roast beef or salmon sandwiches! We even loved it as a dip for takeout pizza. 🙂
Super easy and a sure-to-please appetizer for any occasion. I hope you try it soon, because you won’t be disappointed.
Baked Ricotta with Lemon, Thyme, and Parmesan Cheese
- 1-quart baking dish
- Chef's knife, cheese grater
- 15 oz. Ricotta Cheese, whole milk
- 2 clove garlic, crushed and minced
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
- 3 tbsp shallots, minced
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- fresh bread or toasted crostini for serving
- Preheat oven to 425F degrees.
- Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Spoon into baking dish or 9-inch oven-safe skillet. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese, cayenne pepper, and black pepper.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until bubbling and just slightly golden. (Oil will float to the top a bit. This is totally fine.)
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with extra fresh time leaves for presentation. Serve with bread.
- This dip can be assembled a day ahead of baking and refrigerated, except for the extra-virgin olive oil. If making ahead of time, stir in the oil just before baking and bake for an extra 5 minutes.
- If you have time and the desire, sauté' the garlic and shallots in 1/2 teaspoon of oil just until they soften and start to turn golden. Then add with the other ingredients before baking.
- If you have leftovers, the dip is easily reheated the next day and served with great results. The dip might not look as smooth and may be a bit thicker upon reheating but still tastes amazing.
- Other uses for this dip include as a sandwich spread for roast beef or salmon sandwiches, or on thick crusty bread with slices of onions and cucumbers.
Recipe adapted from Alexandra Cooks