Need a great idea for an appetizer that is fast and easy to make and that will instantly charm your guests’ taste buds? In my book these little heavenly ricotta cream bites are the perfect appetizers. They are creamy, crunchy and light with that amazing freshness and fragrance that basil and lemon so perfectly provide.
I’ve been making these for years, and every time I serve them, they seem to be gone before I know it, and my guests always ask for the recipe. I think it often comes as a surprise that these little pale rather innocently looking mouthfuls are so powerful and packed with taste.
Because of the lightness of the ricotta they don’t leave you feeling too full either, making sure there’s plenty of room for all that other good stuff you’ve planned on spoiling your guests with. As an added bonus they also cater to anyone who might prefer to skip meat, fish or seafood.
Serve with a glass of champagne, cava or prosecco, and your evening couldn’t be off to a better start!
Ricotta cream cheese appetizers with pine nuts, basil and lemon (makes about 30 little bites)
1 large tub (1 lb/475 g) ricotta cheese
A large handful (about 1.5 oz/50 g) fresh basil
1 organic lemon – zest and juice to taste
3.5 tbsp (about 1.5 oz/50 g) pine nuts
1.5 oz (50 g) finely grated Parmesan (or Pecorino) cheese
8 tbsp olive oil, or lemon infused olive oil (if you use the latter, you might not need to add as much lemon juice)
Optional: 1 clove of crushed garlic
1/2 tbsp salt, or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bag/about 30 crostini or crackers
1. Gently roast the pine nuts in a frying pan at medium heat. Make sure to keep an eye on them and toss them around once in a while. They very easily burn, and you want them to be light brown, not dark brown or black. Leave them to cool while you mix together the other ingredients.
2. Pour the ricotta into a large bowl. Add the grated Parmesan (or Pecorino), the olive oil and salt and mix with a spoon. Then add lemon zest and juice from about 1/2 the lemon, garlic if you want, and 5-6 churns of freshly ground black pepper. Mix together and taste to see if it needs more salt, pepper and lemon. Add a bit of either at a time until you think it has the right balance.
3. Wash the basil and dry gently and pick about 30 nice leaves that you will save for topping. Chop the rest of the basil and add to the ricotta mix. Also add the pine nuts and then carefully stir the basil and pine nuts into the creamy mixture. If you want, you can leave the mixture to cool for an hour or two in the fridge before serving.
4. Dress each crostini (or cracker) with 1-2 tsp of the ricotta cream mix and place on a large serving platter. Maybe give the bites a finishing churn of black pepper, and then finish off with a basil leaf on top of each bite. If there is still some of the ricotta cream mix left, I sometimes serve it as a dip with extra crostini on the side. Or, you might simply want to make an extra portion as a dip for the guests who’d like a little more, or if you’d like to go straight to the main course after the appetizers.
Tip: You can easily make the ricotta cream a couple of hours in advance and simply dress on crostini or crackers just before your guests arrive.
Need a few extra appetizers? Here are a few that would be great with the ricotta appetizers: