Don't limit the use of this creamy cheese to just heavy recipes like lasagna or baked ziti. It can be a great way to lighten up comfort foods or add flavor to unexpected dishes.
Why Ricotta Is Healthy
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Ricotta cheese is high in potassium, calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin B12, says Elizabeth Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T., a nutrition communications consultant and coauthor of Fertility Foods Cookbook. This creamy cheese will also help you strengthen your bones and will provide the protein needed to keep you full.
In good news for people who have trouble digesting dairy, this spreadable cheese is only made of whey protein. It's missing the A1 beta casein protein, which was shown to increase gastrointestinal inflammation in a recent study published in Nutrition Journal.
What's more, ricotta is super versatile in cooking. "Ricotta can easily be enjoyed in lasagna, on toast, in cheesecakes, and in creamy sauces," says Shaw. It's also thicker than cottage cheese (which can make it a better binder in recipes and add more texture) and lower in sodium, she says. Keep in mind, though, that whole milk ricotta will have higher sodium, calories, and fat, so be mindful of portion control or consider opting for a part-skim variety. Now that that's covered, here are nine delicious ways to cook with ricotta cheese for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even dessert.
Three Cheese Zucchini Bites
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Say hello to cheesy goodness—without all the excess calories. These zucchini ricotta bites are low-carb but indulgent. Plus, they're gluten-free, so they're a good fit for people who have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity. This recipe uses whole milk ricotta for a creamier texture, as well as ghee or coconut oil to boost digestion.
Get the recipe: Three Cheese Zucchini Bites
Photo: The Toasted Pine Nut
Blackberry Ricotta Pizza with Basil
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Swap your usual mozzarella for ricotta, which goes really well with berries and basil—the perfect balance of sweet and tart.
Get the recipe: Blackberry Ricotta Pizza with Basil
Photo: The Food Charlatan
Kiwi Ricotta Toast
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Ricotta Zucchini "Meatballs"
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If you're looking for old-school Italian comfort food, minus the heavy-stomach feeling, these vegetarian zucchini ricotta "meatballs" have you covered. Clocking in at a little less than 300 calories per serving and low in sodium (thanks to part-skim ricotta and low-sodium panko breadcrumbs), it's an easy and healthy weeknight meal. Serve over whole-wheat pasta for some bonus fiber. (Into the idea of eating less meat without complete restricting yourself? Discover more flexitarian recipes that will make your mouth water.)
Get the recipe: Ricotta Zucchini "Meatballs"
No-Butter Ricotta Cake With Orange Blossom
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This cake uses ricotta instead of butter for an ingredient twist you'll wish you'd been using all along. In fact, the spreadable cheese is used in both the cake itself and in the frosting, for a double dose of awesome. Sprinkle the finished product with crushed almonds for some added protein, healthy fats, and crunch. (Check out these other healthy baking recipes that use fan-favorite cocoa powder.)
Get the recipe: No-Butter Ricotta Cake with Orange Blossom
Photo: Lab Noon
Creamy Spaghetti Squash Ricotta
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Need a low-carb, gluten-free noodle dish that's rich and creamy? This spaghetti squash and ricotta recipe is thick and filling, but surprisingly low in calories. Because spaghetti squash is relatively mild in flavor and soaks up whatever you pair with it, this recipe really plays up the oregano, garlic, and parsley. (Want more spaghetti squash ideas? Ta-da! 14 Healthy Ways to Cook Spaghetti Squash)
Get the recipe: Creamy Spaghetti Squash Ricotta
Photo: Apples for CJ
Honey-Lemon Ricotta Breakfast Toast with Figs and Pistachios
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While there's nothing wrong with waking up to avocado toast, sometimes it's fun to shake things up. Maybe you've already tried sweet potato toast or even mermaid toast, but there's still room for this satisfying ricotta honey toast that works perfectly as a breakfast or as a healthy snack. You'll get a protein kick from the cheese, plus some nice acidity from the lemon to balance out the honey. Pistachios and figs for fiber will keep you full for hours.
Get the recipe: Honey-Lemon Ricotta Breakfast Toast with Figs and Pistachios
Photo: Ambitious Kitchen
Honey and Lemon Thyme Ricotta Ice Cream with Vanilla Peaches
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Your next late-night ice cream fix is about to get an adult makeover. Not only is this ricotta ice cream recipe beautiful, but it also isn't overwhelmingly sweet like many store-bought pints. Instead, there's a fine balance between sweet and savory components. And if you're in the mood for a little booze, you can add a tablespoon of vodka. (If you like the idea of spiking your frozen dessert, then you'll wanna see these fun grown-up popsicle recipes.)
Get the recipe: Honey and Lemon Thyme Ricotta Ice Cream with Vanilla Peaches
Photo: Snixy Kitchen
Sweet Cream Ricotta Pancakes
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Perfect for a lazy Sunday morning brunch, these sweet cream ricotta pancakes are a decadent treat you can look forward to all week. (So is this next-level frittata recipe that'll elevate your weekend brunch.) Light and fluffy, but with a creamy texture (hi, ricotta), this stack will literally melt in your mouth. For some added zest, try mixing lemon into the ricotta cream to bring in an extra burst of flavor.
Get the recipe: Sweet Cream Ricotta Pancakes
Photo: Modern Honey