As part of our effort to share recipes in which coffee is used (or recipes with which coffee goes well), we thought it time to highlight a particularly charming one, Ricotta al Caffè, by the resurgent food writer Elizabeth David. A household name in post-World War II England, her cookbooks offered a reprieve from the post-war gloom. David recalls it as a time when people made do with “flour and water soup seasoned solely with pepper.” She envisioned a different world, where kitchens were imaginative spaces, and home cooks could look beyond their own borders and limitations.
We found the recipe for Ricotta al Caffè three quarters of the way through David’s classic Italian Cooking (published in 1954). Here, ricotta—a fresh soft cheese traditionally made from sheep’s or cow’s milk—is combined with finely ground coffee, sweetened with sugar, and spiced with a splash of rum, to make a luxuriant spread. It may well be the simplest way to turn un-brewed coffee into a dessert and use up your precious remaining coffee beans that are too few for a cup. While David recommends serving it with “fresh cream and thin wafer biscuits,” we think it’s as delicious on toasted bread. Paired with a pour over or espresso, and you have a quick and distinct breakfast or snack.
Ricotta al Caffè
The optional splash of rum amplifies the flavor of the coffee, but there are other ways to adorn the ricotta: A grating of lemon zest adds bright notes, and toasted walnuts give pleasant crunch. As for which kind of coffee to use, a single origin will make a unique combination, while Hayes Valley Espresso will add notes of dark chocolate. If serving as a dessert, our Night Light Decaf works well.
1/2 cup (4 oz) ricotta
2 to 3 teaspoons caster sugar*
1 tsp finely ground coffee (like coffee ground for espresso or Turkish coffee)
Splash of rum (optional)
Use a wooden spoon or spatula to push the ricotta cheese through a fine-mesh sieve so that it’s texture is exceptionally smooth. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta with two teaspoons of sugar and ground coffee.
Stir until combined, and taste. Add additional sugar if more sweetness is desired. Add the rum, if using, and stir to combine. If the mixture has become lumpy, push through sieve again. Chill for at least an hour in order to develop the flavors.
Spread on toast or serve alongside fresh fruit, like raspberries or strawberries.
*Caster sugar, also called superfine sugar, can be made by blending granulated sugar in a food processor or blender for one to two minutes, until the sugar is the consistency of fine grains of sand.
Recipe inspired by Elizabeth David’s Ricotta al Caffè.
Consider another delightful marriage of milk and coffee, the dainty au lait.