Hay Hay It's Donna Day #10: Baked Ricotta Pesto Cakes

Hooray! It’s Donna Day time again and this round’s theme is cheesecake, chosen by an accomplished cheesecake-maker, Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. Aside from the basic recipe, you can browse her archives for truly amazing cheesecake recipes. And if that wasn’t enough, she posted HHDD reminders for us with absolutely stunning cheesecake photos! Don’t visit on an empty stomach…that’s all I’m going to say!

I debated on doing a sweet cheesecake, maybe something incorporating local ingredients like mango and candied pili nuts, but there was a savory cheese cake recipe that I had been wanting to try for a while. Coincidentally enough, in keeping with this event’s inspiration, it came from Donna Hay magazine (issue 29). The recipe is for Baked Ricotta Cakes and was part of a beautiful picnic spread. I was actually so taken by the whole spread and it’s very easy-going, kite-flying, kick-back-and-picnic kind of feel. I love picnics!

As I was putting everything together, admiring the pristine whiteness of the ricotta, I felt like adding another flavor dimension to the cakes. Hmmm…my head pivoted back and forth surveying my small kitchen, my nose in the air sniffing for that missing something. Ah, pesto! I had a bottle of homemade pesto in the fridge and I thought this would be perfect with the cheese.

Baked Ricotta Pesto Cakes
(recipe adapted from Baked Ricotta Cakes from Donna Hay magazine, issue 29)
  • 500 grams ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons homemade pesto
  • 2 eggs
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper
- Place ricotta, parmesan, and pesto (2 tablespoons) in a bowl and mix to combine. Taste to see if you want to add more pesto. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add eggs and mix well.
- Spoon mixture into greased muffin cups and bake at 160C (320F) for 40-45 minutes (but check at 30 minutes) or until golden.
- Cool in pan, and then turn out onto wire rack once cooled.

Doesn’t it all sound so deliciously simple to make? It is! Just some notes:
- The original recipe calls for 8 x ½ capacity muffin tins and to bake for 30 minutes. I used a regular muffin tin, filling 10 of the cups, and baked this for 45 minutes. There was no way they could have come out at 30 minutes…still way undercooked. Could both my oven and my oven thermometer be wrong?
- I could not turn this out of the pan when it was still warm, it was still a tad too jiggly. I turned it out when it was cool and this worked perfectly.
- The recipe says you can serve this warm or cold. I prefer it room temperature or cold.

The ricotta cakes in the magazine were served with some marinated teardrop tomatoes. I wanted to make these too (it looked so refreshing and pretty!) but unfortunately I haven’t seen any teardrop tomatoes around here. So a regular tomato salad would have to do. I just sliced a tomato, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil (the best you’ve got) and balsamic vinegar, a sprinkling of fleur de sel and freshly cracked black pepper (be generous!), and I was all set.

These little cakes are very light with a mousse-y texture. And the pesto was perfect in this, bringing that other flavor dimension that I had hoped for. I used three tablespoons and I thought that was just right. This isn’t really something I would eat solo but they are a great with salads…especially tomato salad (the pesto works there too – completing that illustrious triumvirate of basil, tomato, and cheese). These cakes are a delicious and fresh way to add the cheese component to any salad.

Thanks Peabody for being a terrific host!