Buon estate, tutti! The summer heat has kicked into high gear here in Pennsylvania. To ride out the ‘ondata di caldo‘ (heat wave), we have been spending our days dangling our feet in the river (ok, the river is so low I should really say dangling our toes in the water) or floating mindlessly around the pool, cool drink in hand. After the really rainy spring, the warmth – no matter how hot – is really welcome in my book.
Even though my kitchen renovation is now almost complete, the last thing I want to do in this heat is turn on my shiny new oven to bake. Yet six months without a kitchen has left me with a long list of dinner invitations to friends who lovingly cooked us meals and saved me from ‘single burner’ and Instant Pot meals while the kitchen was under construction. But on the hottest of days, these same friends rush through the ‘renovation tour’ to make a beeline for the floaty in the pool (kidding of course!) while we fire up the grill to settle in for a lazy afternoon poolside. We certainly need a sweet treat to end the meal, toes in water.
I have been taking cues lately from a few tricks my mom used during the summer months to get us out of the house. She would take out that big tub of ricotta that always seemed to be in our fridge and mix in some chocolate chips and sugar and send us out under the coolness of our backyard trees to chill. The cool, refreshing ricotta was a welcome respite from the heat of the day. And we felt like the luckiest kids in the world with our somewhat exotic treat.
I have been using her playbook recently to create a simple but tasty dessert that, so far, has seemed to please. Ricotta’s creamy texture provides a wonderful backdrop for simple, no bake desserts that satisfy that sweet tooth but keep the heat of summer outside the kitchen.
The first dessert takes the classic affogato recipe and switches up the ice cream with ricotta sweetened with a bit of Frangelico (although absolutely nothing wrong with the ice cream version either!) The creamy concoction is then topped with more Frangelico for a boozy treat and the classic shot of espresso. The second takes the classic tiramisu and also swaps in ricotta for a lighter, easier version. I combined the ricotta with yogurt for a wonderfully light cream to use in the tiramisu.
Both recipes call for you oo whip the ricotta. Now given it is hot, there is not a chance I am pulling out that hand mixer. A wire whisk and a little elbow grease whips that ricotta into a creamy mixture within a few minutes. I also like my desserts without a lot of sugar but if your sweet tooth calls for more, simply add a bit more sugar or honey while whipping the ricotta.
And don’t stop here. This wonderfully creamy, no-fuss palette can be topped with other fresh fruits – balsamic-soaked strawberries, juicy white peaches, whatever fruit is in season. Or maybe swap out the espresso for some beautiful green matcha tea. Sprinkle some crystalized ginger on top.
These desserts are great to make as individual servings. Great for guests to grab once they mosey out of the pool. You can also make (or buy) a simple pie crust (graham cracker crumb perhaps?) and heap the ricotta cream in the shell and top with your mass of fruit.
All very simple ways to keep your cool this summer!
See you in the pool!
Fresh Berry Ricotta Tiramisu
An easy summer dessert using ricotta layered with fresh berries!
- Yield: 3-4 servings, depending on size of glass
- Cuisine: Italian
- Approximately 6 ounces blueberries
- Approximately 6 ounces blackberries
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 cups whole milk ricotta
- 1 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
- Savoiardi biscuits (Italian lady fingers), cut into pieces to fit in your glasses
Optional toppings: White chocolate, cinnamon, mint sprigs
In a small saucepan, stir together the blueberries, blackberries, lemon juice, vanilla and a few tablespoons of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Add in the honey and stir gently to incorporate. Simmer for about 5 minutes until berries are soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the berries separating the liquid from the berries, reserving both.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the ricotta and zest from the lemon. Whip vigorously with a wire whisk until smooth and creamy. Stir in the yogurt and sugar (if using). Stir until incorporated.
Dip the Savoiardi biscuits in the berry liquid and divide among your serving glasses. Spoon some of the berries and some of the liquid over the biscuits, reserving some of both to spoon on top.
Spoon the ricotta-yogurt mixture over the berries and then top with a few remaining berries and a bit of liquid.
Toss on a few garnishes. Sprinkle with shaved white chocolate or cinnamon or top with a mint sprig. Enjoy!
Sweetened Ricotta Affogato
An easy take on an Italian classic dessert.
- Yield: 3-4 servings, depending on the size of the glass
- Cuisine: Italian
- 15 ounces whole milk ricotta (fresh if you can find it)
- 1 tablespoon Frangelico liquor or anise extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
- 6 Amaretto cookies, crumbled plus additional for serving
- 2 teaspoons cacao nibs, sweetened or unsweetened plus additional for serving
- 1 shot of Frangelico per glass
- 1 shot of espresso per glass
In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, Frangelico (or anise if using), vanilla extract and sugar, if using. Whip vigorously with a wire whisk until light and fluffy. Stir in the crumbled Amaretto cookies and the cacao nibs. (If you can’t find cacao nibs, just smash up a dark chocolate bar.) Stir until incorporated.
Place a large scoop in each glass. Top with the shot of Frangelico and the shot of espresso. Sprinkle with some more cacoa nibs and crushed cookies and serve!