When summer really hits, and the peppers are a-popping, remember this recipe.
Many of us first heard of the main ingredient of ricotta (in Italian, “cooked again”) in a nursery rhyme— Little Miss Muffet eating her curds and whey before she got so distracted by a spider. Although there’s much discussion about what Ms. Muffet was actually eating, we know that cheese is made from curds and ricotta is made from the whey, the liquid that is pressed out of the curds. When Lapo Salvadori, who lives down the road from us, makes cheese, from sheep’s milk, he’ll frequently hang a bag of the freshest ricotta on our gate. You can find him at https://www.casaledellatorre.com/en/agriturismo/farm.
Special baskets once imprinted the sides of the cheese with a woven pattern. These are collectable, since ricotta now is formed in pierced plastic molds. For these recipes, choose any whole-milk ricotta and drain it if it seems watery.
BAKED PEPPERS with RICOTTA and BASIL
Photo by: Stephen Rothfeld
5 YELLOW OR RED BELL PEPPERS
2 TABLESPOONS EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
2 CUPS (1 POUND) WHOLE-MILK RICOTTA
1 TABLESPOON TORN FRESH MINT LEAVES
½ CUP FRESH BASIL LEAVES, TORN, PLUS A FEW WHOLE LEAVES FOR GARNISH
1 TABLESPOON MINCED FRESH ROSEMARY OR 1½ TEASPOONS DRIED
1 TABLESPOON FRESH THYME LEAVES OR 1½ TEASPOONS DRIED
½ CUP FINELY SLICED GREEN ONIONS
1 HANDFUL OF FLAT-LEAF PARSLEY, CHOPPED
1 TEASPOON SALT
½ TEASPOON PEPPER
½. CUP (2 OUNCES) GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO
1 TEASPOON FENNEL FLOWERS
2 TABLESPOONS FRESH BREADCRUMBS, CRISPED IN A LITTLE EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Heat a grill or turn the gas flame on the stove on high.
Singe the peppers on the grill or the stovetop. I set them down right on the stove’s flame and keep turning them with tongs. In about 10 minutes, the peppers should char all over, but don’t cook them so long that they turn limp. Cool in a medium bowl, and then slide off the burned skin. Cut in half and clean out the ribs and seeds. Rub inside and out with the olive oil.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, mint, basil, rosemary, thyme, green onions, parsley, salt, and pepper. Beat in the eggs and Parmigiano. Fill the peppers with the mixture and top with the fennel flowers and breadcrumbs. Line a 9 × 13-inch baking dish with parchment and arrange the peppers. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the ricotta is set to the touch and the breadcrumbs have browned. Garnish with basil leaves.
Excerpt From The Tuscan Sun Cookbook
Frances Mayes, Edward Mayes & Steven Rothfeld