pasta with baked ricotta and sweet tomato sauce

I’m all about taking water out of ingredients. Zucchini, eggplant, cabbage, tomatoes, tofu, even bread for French toast. Water doesn’t contribute flavor, so if it isn’t improving texture, I have no use for it.

In this recipe, ricotta is drained in cheesecloth for several hours, then baked. What I thought would happen is the cheese would lose a small but significant portion of water during the draining stage, and then it would brown a little in the oven.

I was wrong. My ricotta actually gave off no liquid during straining, and I’m thinking now that the baking isn’t so much to brown the ricotta as to concentrate flavor by evaporating even more liquid.

The sauce to accompany the baked ricotta is a simple tomato sauce that is sweetened with balsamic vinegar. I used fresh pasta, which when topped with the sauce, ricotta, a handful a parmesan and a sprinkling of basil, made for a great adaptation of a classic pasta and tomato sauce dish.

One year ago: Pot Roast
Two years ago: Comparison of 4 Vanilla Frosting

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Pasta with Sweet Tomato Sauce and Baked Ricotta (adapted from Jamie Oliver via Cate’s World Kitchen)

I used one pound of (store-bought) fresh pasta instead of dried pasta, and it was so good that I think I’ll stick with fresh pasta for this recipe in the future as well.

Serves 4-6

1 (15-ounce) container ricotta
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano, divided
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice
3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 pound wide pasta, such as pappardelle or fettucine
a handful of fresh basil, torn
½ cup (1 ounce) freshly grated parmesan

1. Line a fine-mesh strainer with several layers of cheesecloth. Spoon the ricotta into the strainer and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

2. Adjust a rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Spread the ricotta onto the baking sheet in a 1-inch layer. Season the ricotta with ¼ teaspoon dried oregano and a generous pinch of both salt and pepper. Rub 1 teaspoon of the olive oil over the seasoned ricotta. Bake for 15 minutes, until dry and slightly browned at the edges.

3. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in an 8 to 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the edges just start to brown, 6-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ¼ teaspoon oregano, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt; bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Use a spoon to crush the tomatoes, of, if you’d like a smooth sauce, transfer the mixture to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree the sauce. Stir the balsamic vinegar into the sauce.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the cooking water.

5. Combine the pasta and sauce, thinning the mixture with pasta cooking water if necessary. Fold in the basil and ricotta and top with the parmesan.


  1. Renee says:

    I saw this on Cate’s blog as well and was intrigued. However, ricotta can be a little sweet for me. I was thinking that this recipe might be a great application for ricotta salata, however, which I love. That would also make this a 20 minute meal, which sounds good. Hmm, maybe I will try that route very soon. I love your use of fresh wheat pasta. I am really liking the Buitoni whole wheat linguini lately – it’s almost indistinguishable from white pasta.

  2. Apparently quite a few of us were intrigued by this one! I starred it after seeing it on Cate’s blog too and it’s on the menu for this week 🙂 Yours is gorgeous and makes me look forward to trying this recipe even more!

  3. I’ve seen baked ricotta on some other blogs, and I sooo want to try it! This dish looks amazing, simple yet flavorful. I will try it sometime!!

  4. Huh! I guess the ricotta must have been very rich to begin with, or you can help the dehydration along by weighting the top with a saucer and a can of tomatoes on top. In any case, this dish looks like a keeper. Jamie gets a lot of flack for some reason but I really like his recipes!

  5. I loved this dish! I used part skim ricotta when I made it, so it drained quite a bit. I think full fat (I’m guessing that’s what you used?) has so much less water. Yours looks fabulous, as always 🙂

  6. bridget says:

    ashlee – I actually used part-skim as well. I was surprised it didn’t give off any liquid. Maybe if I left it overnight and pressed it?

  7. vivian says:

    This looks delightful! You know, I never look at your posts before I have eaten a meal. I have learned with your site to view only if my appetite is put on hold until later. Otherwise, I would devour anything edible that was available to me in the moment. You are such an inspiring “foodie” and we are all grateful you share these wonderful posts with us. Thank you!

  8. bridget says:

    vivian – Wow, thanks for the amazing compliment. I really appreciate it. 🙂

  9. I seriously need to try this recipe soon! I keep seeing people talking about in online, and it sounds fantastic. Going vegetarian for lent is one more reason I have to try it soon. Thanks for sharing!

  10. wow, this sounds so good! i will have to try it out soon!

  11. I never would have thought to bake ricotta but I bet it really gives it a great flavor.