Ricotta al Caffe / Coffee-Laced Ricotta
In the middle of a sweltering Tuscan summer, with no working oven and a two-year-old requesting attention, I had to come up with some kind of simple dessert to end a meal for some friends staying over. I found a lovely little recipe in Elizabeth David’s Italian Food for slightly sweet ricotta with a splash of rum and a spoonful of fine coffee grounds stirred through it. She also suggests serving it with some fresh cream and thin wafer biscuits (I quite like lingua di gatto, or cat’s tongue biscuits for this). Together with the booziness from the rum and the uplifting hit of caffeine, it’s rather like a lazy idea for a tiramisu.
Served well chilled in little glasses, it is a refreshing, elegant and surprisingly light way to end a meal. I’ve made it many times since and it has morphed a little from the original. I prefer it with a shot of espresso rather than the coffee grounds. It’s a subtler coffee flavour and doesn’t seem to make your head spin as the straight coffee grounds do. Sometimes I like to fold the whipped cream directly into the ricotta, which makes it light as a cloud. And, when I want to make it a little more substantial to serve as a dessert, I crumble biscuits into the glasses and layer them with the ricotta, whipped cream and chocolate.
250g fresh ricotta
80g caster sugar
2 tbsp strong espresso
splash of rum (optional)
100g soft, plain biscuits (about 8), such as savoiardi (lady fingers) or cat’s tongue biscuits
100ml pouring (single/light) cream, whipped to soft peaks
20g dark chocolate, shaved or grated for serving
Whip the ricotta with a whisk (if you prefer to remove all of the ricotta’s characteristic lumps, you can make it perfectly smooth by passing it through a fine-meshed sieve with a silicone spatula to help you). Add the sugar, espresso and rum (if using) and whisk until smooth and well combined. Crumble the biscuits and divide half of the crumble among the glasses. Distribute half of the ricotta mixture over the top. Add a layer of the remaining crumbled biscuits, then a layer of the rest of the ricotta mixture. Allow to chill for 1 hour before serving, then dollop whipped cream on the top and sprinkle with the dark chocolate.
Note This dessert should sit for at least 1 hour in the fridge to chill before serving, but if you want to prepare this well ahead of time, such as the night before, leave out the whipped cream until just before serving.
Extracted from Acquacotta: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany’s Secret Silver Coast by Emiko Davies (Hardie Grant, approx €29). Photography by Lauren Bamford.