Ricotta has got to be the most versatile of Italian cheeses: it makes its way into a variety of savory pasta dishes, from the popular pasta con la ricotta to the iconic ricotta-filled ravioli and—of course—southern-style lasagna, and any number of desserts, from the grand Neapolitan pastiera to the elegant budino di ricotta to my grandmother’s humble pizza dolce. But this ricotta mousse might be the most quintessential ricotta dish we’ve featured yet: uncooked ricotta cheese, drained and sieved, enriched with egg yolks and confectioner’s sugar, then, if you like, laced with a bit a liqueur. The most common use for ricotta mousse is filling cannoli, but it is perfectly delicious served as is—or with some shavings of dark chocolate or other toppings strike your fancy. If you like ricotta, you’ll love this.
Serves 2-4 persons as a light dessert
- 450g (16 oz) ricotta cheese
- 2 egg yolks, preferably pasteurized
- 50-75g (2- 2-1/2 oz) confectioner’s sugar, or to taste
- A few spoonfuls of rum, Amaretto, Frangelico or other liqueur of your choice
For the topping (optional):
- Semi-sweet dark chocolate, shavings
- Powdered cinnamon
- Crumbled hazelnuts
- Almond shavings
Place the ricotta inside a fine mesh strainer, which itself is placed inside a large mixing bowl, like so:
If the cheese looks a bit wet, let it drain for about an hour, then throw out any liquid that has dripped into the bowl and dry out the bowl, then, using a spatula or wooden spoon, press it through the strainer into the bowl.
Now, in the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they are completely smooth and the mixture forms ribbons, like so:
Now add the ricotta and whisk again, until the cheese is fully incorporated as well and the mixture is completely smooth. If you like, whisk in a few spoonfuls of liqueur. (I used Frangelico this time.)
Refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour, preferably for several hours or even overnight, covering the mixture with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming on its surface. After its spell in the fridge, the mixture will have thickened considerably.
Serve your mousse in dessert bowls, topped with chocolate shavings and/or one or more of the other toppings listed. Feel free to be as creative as you like; the ricotta mousse goes with just about anything.
Ricotta cheese bought commercially varies wildly in taste and texture. Some is quite dry and smooth and can really be used as is. Other brands are quite lumpy and/or wet. You just need to judge for yourself and act accordingly. The ricotta needs to be quite dry for the recipe to work, but if you’re not too fussy and feeling lazy, you can skip the sieving and just use the ricotta as is. The powerful whisking action of the standing mixer will tend to smooth things out anyway. And if you don’t have a standing mixer, no worries: a hand whisk and some elbow grease will get the job done.
Regular granulated (aka caster) sugar can substitute for the confectioner’s sugar. The amount of sugar can be adjusted upwards or downwards to suit your sweet tooth. The number of egg yolks can also vary, some recipes call for double what I’ve indicated here.
There are lots of ways to vary the basic recipe. The liqueur you use (if you use it at all) will change the flavor radically; a few drops of vanilla extract can provide a non-alcoholic flavor boost. And the toppings, as indicated, are up to you. Chocolate is probably the most common, but you can really take it in any direction you fancy. Ricotta’s mild flavor will go with just about anything.
Ricotta mousse calls for raw egg, so if you have any doubts about the freshness of your eggs, or want to play it safe, use pasteurized eggs in their shells, which can be bought at select supermarkets.