After making homemade lasagna and pancakes, I usually have a little bit of ricotta cheese left over. Usually, I just rinse out the container, since it’s not enough to use in a new recipe. However, I recently stumbled across a simple way to make sure none of that tasty goodness goes to waste: dolloping it on a bowl of soup.
Now that it's chilly outside, I'm eager to try new ways to up my soup game. I first came across the idea of having soup with ricotta cheese from Italian chef and cookbook author Lidia Bastianich, who told Mashed.com that her grandmother used to make fresh ricotta almost daily, using goat milk from her family's farm. Since she always had plenty of the cheese on hand, her grandmother used it in a variety of recipes — and ricotta soup was one of her go-to dishes.
To whip up this recipe, she used the liquid whey protein left after making the cheese as a soup base. (Ricotta curds are usually separated from the liquid by squeezing the cheese through a cheesecloth or tea towel.) Then she added wild herbs, such as nettles and leeks, and simmered the mixture until it was steaming. Once the soup was hot, little pieces of ricotta floated to the top, adding salty, cheesy sparks of flavor. Bastianich still makes this soup today, and swears by it as another way to enjoy ricotta cheese.
Reading this inspired me to try a simpler version at home, by dolloping some ricotta on top of a bowl of pumpkin soup. I figured it would add saltiness and an extra creamy touch to the dish — and also bring the temperature down, making it easier to enjoy right away. Adding a heaping tablespoon of ricotta cheese to my soup, I stirred it up and gave it a try.
At first glance, the ricotta gave the soup a grainy look. But the taste made up for it, as the tiny salted cheese curds balanced the hearty, rich flavor of the puréed pumpkin. Just as I imagined, the ricotta did slightly cool down the soup, so it didn't burn my tongue — an added bonus.
This was definitely a different way of using ricotta than what I'm used to. However, it was delicious enough for me to brainstorm other soup flavors that could use a scoop of this cheese. Next up to try? Hearty potato and classic tomato basil.