Baked ricotta with caponata

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I often make this when asked to ‘bring a plate’. It’s slightly unexpected and travels well, making it the perfect addition to the groaning table of salads and dips. The rich, salty-sweet flavours of the caponata are well suited to the milky simplicity of the ricotta, and the fresh oregano is a perfect accompaniment to anything with tomato. Spoon the caponata over just before serving, to keep the ricotta looking fresh.

If you don’t have time to make the caponata, then the ricotta can be simply topped with fresh herbs, some olives or quartered and well-seasoned cherry tomatoes. However, the caponata is a great recipe in itself and is equally at home with grilled beef or lamb, seared tuna or spooned onto bruschetta.

Ingredients

  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) fresh full-fat ricotta cheese
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
  • 35 g ( oz/ cup) finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Caponata

  • 1 eggplant (aubergine), about 300 g (10½ oz), cut into 2 cm (¾ inch) cubes
  • 80 ml ( fl oz/ cup) olive oil
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 2 ripe roma (plum) tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 6 sicilian green olives, pitted and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon small salted capers, rinsed and drained
  • 45 g ( oz/ cup) slivered almonds, toasted
  • oregano leaves, to serve

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Loosely line a 20 cm (8 inch) spring-form cake tin with a piece of baking paper. Sit the tin on a baking tray.

Put the ricotta in a large bowl with the rosemary, parmesan and egg. Stir to combine, then spoon the ricotta mixture into the prepared tin. Place the tray and tin in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the ricotta is firm and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, to make the caponata, put the eggplant in a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and leave the eggplant to drain while you prepare the other ingredients.

Rinse the eggplant well to remove the salt, then drain and pat dry with paper towel. Heat half of the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until golden all over, then transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and cook the onion and garlic until golden, then return the eggplant to the pan along with the celery, tomatoes and sugar. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the vinegar, olives, capers and almonds and cook for a further 1 minute.

Transfer the ricotta to a serving plate, spoon over the caponata and sprinkle with oregano leaves. Serve with crisp flatbread.