Last night, I made this wonderfully crunchy salad using Ricotta Salata. You can find this cheese at Whole Foods or most Italian markets.
Ricotta Salata is one of Italy’s most unusual sheep’s milk cheeses. The milk curds and whey used to make this cheese are pressed and dried even before the cheese is aged, giving this pure white cheese a dense but slightly spongy texture and a salty, milky flavor — like a dry Italian feta.
Despite its name, this is not ricotta as Americans have come to know ricotta. In Italian, ricotta simply means “re-cooked.” It is a cheese-making process rather than a specific cheese. This ricotta is also a salata, or “salted,” cheese.
Snap Pea, Radish, Basil and Ricotta Salata Salad
2 Tbs hazelnuts
1 tsp kosher salt
1 lb snap peas, vine end trimmed
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp flaky sea salt 6 medium radishes, trimmed and sliced into thin wedges
2 Tbs crumbled ricotta salata
6 large basil leaves, roughly torn
Preheat the oven to 350°. On a rimmed baking sheet, add the hazelnuts and roast until toasted, about 8 minutes. Enclose the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel, then use the towel to rub the papery skins from the hazelnuts. Unwrap and set the hazelnuts aside to cool completely before roughly chopping.
To a medium bowl, add ice and water and set aside. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the kosher salt and the snap peas and simmer until the peas are crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Drain the snap peas in a colander and immediately transfer them to the ice-water bath to stop the cooking. Once the snap peas are chilled, drain, then transfer the vegetables to a kitchen-towel-lined baking sheet pan to drain further.
In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt. Add the drained snap peas and the radishes and toss to combine. Sprinkle the ricotta salata, torn basil and chopped hazelnuts over the top and serve.