In Sicily, Ricotta di Pecora, (sheep ricotta) is made from the milk of the local sheep, it is not a cheese but a fresh dairy product made from the whey leftover from the making of other cheeses.
As with most Sicilian cheeses, ricotta reflects the seasons. In the months from November through May, when the pastures are greenest, the sheep produce the most milk, which in turn makes the best ricotta.
Outside of Sicily, the kind of ricotta that is most widely available is made with cow’s milk using whole milk or a reduced fat milk and it just doesn’t have the same flavor.
That might explain why cannoli, (plural) Sicily’s iconic dessert, tastes so amazing there … it’s the Ricotta di Pecora … and the fact that you’re eating it in Sicily doesn’t hurt either!
- 2 cups fresh ricotta
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 tablespoons (plus some for garnish) sun-dried tomatoes, (packed in oil) drained and chopped
- 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into chunks
In a medium-size bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, eggs (don’t forget to lightly whisk the eggs, it helps the mixture be puffy) and sun-dried tomatoes.
Lightly oil ramekins or oven-proof custard cups (3/4 cup size will yield 4 servings).
Fill each ramekin with 1/3 cup filling, add a chunk of mozzarella on top.
I ran out of mozzarella and used slices of provolone, tasted great and still provided that ooey, gooey cheesy center!
Mound (rather than spread evenly) 1/3 cup filling on top of the cheese.
Bake at 350* for approximately 30 minutes (it’s important not to over bake because it will change the texture). Tops should be be light golden-brown and puffed up just a bit. The baked ricotta will looked uncooked in the center, but after it sets for 5 minutes or so, it will be perfect.
Serve in the ramekins, garnish with a few sun-dried tomatoes.