Every self respecting Italian girl has some ricotta in her fridge. It's a staple that most of us have grown up on. It's creamy and easy to eat and something most of our Nonna's gave us even before we had teeth. So what exactly is ricotta anyway?
Ricotta isn't exactly a cheese. It's actually the delicious by-product (made from the whey) of the cheese-making process. The word "Ricotta" in Italian means "re-cooked" or "cooked again". In Italy, it's traditionally made from sheep, cow, goat or water buffalo cheeses which gives it a nuttier, only mildly sweet taste. Here in America, most of our commercially prepared ricotta is the by-product of cows milk cheese such as mozzarella and provalone. It's usually milder and more sweet than it's Italian counterpart, making it perfect to add creaminess and a unique texture to dishes without overpowering their other flavors.
If you didn't grow up on ricotta like I did, you might think it's only useful in pasta dishes. That couldn't be further from the truth. True, it's delicious in Manicotti, Ravioli, Stuffed Shells and Lasagna but, it's also an ingredient that can be used in a host of other delicious dishes from savory to sweet. Pancakes, cheesecakes, smoothies, cookies, gnocchi, frittatas, ice-cream and casseroles are just a few ways to utilize it's creamy deliciousness.
These pancakes came together on a whim. Tonight, as usual, I was scrambling to find a side-dish to go with our dinner. I looked in my fridge and saw some spinach and my trusty ricotta and thus, these babies were born. My son loves all things pancake, so I knew these would be a hit. They took less than 10 minutes to make and are the perfect accompaniment to any protein or delicious on their own alongside a salad for a quick vegetarian meal. They even taste great at room temperature, so I am definitely adding these to my sons lunchbox repertoire.
Give them a try and let me know what you think!
Savory Ricotta and Spinach Pancakes
Makes 6 mini pancakes
1/2 cup ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1. In a medium sized bowl, combine ricotta, egg, flour, spinach, Parmigiano cheese and black pepper. Mix well.
2. Preheat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spoon one heaping tablespoon of mixture for each pancake into skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown on each side. Enjoy!
Flavor these up anyway you like. Red pepper flakes, lemon zest, dill and garlic are just a few delicious additions that would work perfectly in these pancakes.