Creamy, dreamy ricotta cheese is what makes foods like white pizza and manicotti oh-so-good. But if you or someone in your family is avoiding dairy, these dishes are probably off the table.
SmartGirlVeg to the rescue!
We were craving some red-sauced Italian food, but wanted to keep it as plant-powered as possible. So we came up with this bean-based stand-in for ricotta. You can whip it up in no time, and use it in your favorite savory ricotta-containing dishes like pastas, dips, pizzas and more (we have not experimented with it in sweet recipes). Teen vegetarians, teen non-vegetarians, vegetarians of any age and omnivores of any age will love it!
Makes about 1 cup total
1 cup no salt white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup roasted salted sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic (optional)
2-4 tablespoons water
In a food processor, blend white beans, sunflower seeds, lemon juice, salt, and garlic (if you choose to use it) until it forms a thick paste (you may need to stop the machine every once in a while to pull the mixture off the sides with a rubber scraper). With the machine running, add between 2 and 4 tablespoons of water, until the consistency is soft and creamy, like ricotta cheese.
Optional: Add in a handful of greens at the end; you can use kale, spinach, or parsley—works well if you’re using your ricNOTta in an Italian dish like lasagna or stuffed shells.
I whirled up a kale-infused batch that I used in a batch of polenta lasagna (slice a log of polenta into thin rounds; in a square glass baking dish layer polenta, cooked veggies of your choice, ricNOTta, tomato sauce; top with a final layer of polenta and sauce; bake for 25-30 minutes or until it bubbles). One fun thing about this delish dish is that it can be customized once sliced—cheese-eaters can sprinkle their slice with shredded parmesan for an extra kick; carnivores who just won’t be happy with a veg meal can ladle some meat sauce on top.
A few days later I used a batch with a bit of parsley in it for eggplant rollatini. I sliced an eggplant thinly the long way, and baked it in the oven at 325 degrees F until soft; about 25 minutes. Then I spooned a scoop of ricNOTta into each slice, rolled it up, and placed in a baking dish that I’d coated with tomato sauce. Topped it with some more tomato sauce, sprinkled parmesan cheese on half for the cheese-eaters in my house, put it back in the oven until bubbly (about 10 minutes) and voila.
Try it and let us know what you think!