How to smoke ricotta cheese. We cover the classic cold-smoking approach and a creative one you can use inside.
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Read on for relevant tips and step-by-step pictures.
If you have never tried smoked ricotta before you are going to be pleasantly surprised. Smoking turns a mild, fresh cheese that some describe as borderline bland into an exquisitely flavored delicacy.
We are showing you two of the easiest ways to smoke ricotta. The cheese is typically cold smoked, meaning that it is only flavored by the infusion of smoke, not simultaneously cooked by the heat of the wood producing the smoke.
An alternative method is to use soaked cedar wraps. It does require heat to work, but on the flip side works pretty fast and does not dry out the cheese very much. It can also be done inside, on the stove top, so it is worth considering.
Classic Cold-Smoking Method for Smoked Ricotta
Overall smoking ricotta is no different than smoking other cheeses, but because it is a fresh cheese you do need to account for its texture and therefore you should enlist a bit of help to keep it together. To that end
You will need
- cheesecloth – to wrap the ricotta in
- butcher’s twine – to tie it
- a small shallow pan, metal plate or similar – to place it onto (going directly for the grill grates doesn’t work)
Assuming that you do not own a commercial cold-smoker, the easiest way to cold smoke cheese, including ricotta is to burn the wood at a distance from the cheese and channel the smoke to it. This can be accomplished by
- using the smoker box of your grill and placing the ricotta far away on the grill side, with the lid closed or
- by using a smoke tube for grills without a smoker chamber (you will only use the grill as a vessel of sorts, to contain the smoke)
Both methods work better on a cooler day as this makes temperature management much easier.
TIP: Should you find yourself struggling to maintain a low enough temperature (65-85 F) with the smoker box method, fill a pan with ice and place the flat dish with the ricotta on top of it. Most likely you will not need to replenish the ice before the ricotta is done, while the cold from it will regulate the temperature and keep the cheese cool.
- Set up your smoker according to the manufacturers instructions and add your choice of wood chips per the specifications of the manufacturer.
- Place the cheesecloth wrapped ricotta onto a metal plate or tray and position in away from the smoking box. Smoke should reach it, but the temperature around where the ricotta is should be well under 100 F with the 65-85 F range being ideal (see tip above for using ice to control temperature). Smoke until satisfied with the results.
- Alternatively, place the ricotta onto the grate of a grill, light a smoke tube (affiliate link) filled with your choice of pellets and place it near the ricotta. Close the lid and smoke until satisfied.
- Generally, you are looking for the outside of the ricotta to acquire a nice golden color and for the edges to begin to crumble a bit.
- If you find that the smoked ricotta is a bit too warm towards the end of the process you can place it into a cold bowl to chill immediately.
TIP: The time needed to cold smoke ricotta depends on the quantity of it and the intensity of flavor you are looking for. In the pictures above we cold smoked 3 cups for about twenty-five minutes.
Cedar Wraps Method for Smoked Ricotta
While everyone is familiar with cedar planks for smoking, cedar wraps are relatively new. The folks at Fire & Flavor who make and distribute an excellent product here in the US sent us a few samples and we tested them by smoking ricotta. They are really great for delicate foods such as shrimp, scallops, fish, mushrooms and thin veggie sticks.
We loved what these thin wraps did for the ricotta – very fragrant smokey sweet flavor and beautiful color. The main difference with the cold-smoking method is that you do need to place the ricotta onto or inside a heat source for the wraps to work, therefore the ricotta’s texture changed a bit, but the cheese did not dry out excessively.
You will need
- leeks – the outermost layer, cut canoe style – it helps keep the ricotta nicely in place and makes wrapping it with the cedar easier. You do not need to consume it.
- cedar wraps and ties – sold in grilling sections of grocery, home improvement and camping stores or on Amazon (affiliate link)
- cast iron skillet – or a sheet pan if you are making these in the oven, or you could carefully place them directly onto the grates of a preheated grill
- Soak the cedar wraps in water for about 5 minutes, then remove and set aside.
- Spoon the ricotta into canoe cut outer leek layers, add a bit of thyme or pepper (optional), then wrap with the cedar and tie with twine.
- Place onto preheated grill or stove top, using a cast iron skillet.
How to Serve The Smoked Delicacy
You can enjoy smoked ricotta simply by including it in cheese boards and crudités platters. One of our favorite methods is to stuff a sweet mini pepper with smoked ricotta – delicious finger food!
You can also drizzle it with some olive oil, season it with a bit of salt and pepper and spread it over toast, bruschetta, bagels, etc. Or use it as pizza topping or calzone stuffing. You can fold it into mashed potatoes or omelettes. So many options.
Quick Dishes Featuring Smoked Ricotta
Smoked Ricotta Polenta – Cook polenta as per the instructions on the packaging. Once done, add a cup of smoked ricotta for every two cups of cooked polenta. Simply crumble the smoked ricotta over the still hot polenta and gently fold it in using a fork. Enjoy immediately.
Smoked Ricotta Pasta – Cook your choice of pasta as per the manufactures instructions. Strain cooked pasta and return to pot, add smoked ricotta to taste (simply crumble on top) and drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle some chopped fresh herbs, fold the ricotta into the pasta and serve immediately.
Smoked Ricotta Salad – Smoked ricotta is delicious when added to various salads, especially if made with roasted root vegetables or grilled peaches.
Smoked Ricotta Dip – To make it use this recipe and leave out the lemon juice.
Pairing with Craft Beer
Smoked ricotta pairs fabulously with dry-hopped ales and lagers. Truly fabulously. For taking the pictures for this post we enjoyed it with Funkwerks Brewing Saison d’Houblon. Its solid, dry saison base, lack of bitterness, earthy esters and the rich bouquet of citrusy and herbal hops used to dry hop it were a perfect match.
Other styles that we’ve really enjoyed along with smoked ricotta and recommend that you try are Brett fermented ales and kolsch.
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- 3 cups ricotta cheese
COLD SMOKE METHOD
- your choice of smoking wood chunks, chips or pellets (if using a smoking tube)*
- cheesecloth and butcher's twine
CEDAR WRAPS METHOD
- cedar wraps (as an alternative to smoking wood, if smoking inside)
- 1 leek (to use as vessel)
COLD SMOKED RICOTTA
1. Place ricotta inside cheesecloth and tie with twine.
2. Set up your smoker according to the manufacturer's instructions and add your choice of wood chips per the specifications of the manufacturer. Place the cheesecloth wrapped ricotta onto a metal plate or tray and position it away from the smoking box. Smoke should reach it, but the temperature around where the ricotta is should be well under 100 F with the 65-85 F range being ideal.**
Smoke for about 20 minutes or until the color changes to golden and the edges dry out and begin to crumble.
Alternatively, fill a smoker tube with your choice of pellets and place it on the grate of a cold grill. Place the ricotta nearby and close the lid of the grill. Smoke until satisfied with the results, about 20 minutes.
CEDAR WRAP SMOKED RICOTTA
1. Soak the cedar wraps in water for 5 minutes.
2. Cut outermost layers of leek canoe style and stuff with ricotta. Wrap in cedar wraps and tie across the middle.
3. Place in a cast iron skillet or similar and cook on medium-high stove top or onto a gas grill. About 10 minutes and the ricotta will acquire a sweet, smokey flavor. The texture with this method is a bit drier due to the fact that heat is involved.
*apple, cherry, maple, hickory and oak will work well
**To maintain low temperature (65-85 F) with the smoker box method, you can use this trick. Fill a pan with ice and place the flat dish with the ricotta on top of it. Most likely you will not need to replenish the ice before the ricotta is done. This should help when you simply cannot achieve a good distance between the location of the wood providing the smoke and the ricotta.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 241Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 206mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 16g