serves: makes about 24 pieces
Life in the hilly inland of Molise was for centuries a pastoral existence, and the traditional staples of the pastoral table are still essential elements in Molisano cooking. Ricotta, a nutritious and always available by-product of cheesemaking, thus appears on the table in many forms, such as gnocchi, with pastas and vegetables, and in soups-or eaten just plain, with bread. Here's one of the most delicious ways that ricotta can be enjoyed: drained, shaped in small pieces, breaded, and fried, ricotta fritta gains new dimensions of texture and flavor. Serve these fried ricotta morsels as a savory appetizer or main course, in a puddle of tomato sauce or on top of braised vegetables. On the other hand, if you top them with some poached peaches or peach preserve or fruit jam with a dollop of whipped cream, you have a glorious dessert.
15 ounces fresh ricotta , drained overnight
½ cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
2 cups bread crumbs
2 large eggs
pinch of kosher salt
½ cup vegetable oil
2 cups Tomato sauce
12 fresh basil leaves, shredded
2 cups fruit jam
1 cup Whipped cream
Put the drained ricotta in a bowl. With an ice-cream scoop or other implement, scoop out tablespoon-sized balls of ricotta, and set them on a parchment-lined tray or sheet pan (you should have about twenty-four ricotta balls total). Set the tray in the freezer, and chill the balls until firm, about 30 minutes.
Spread the flour on a small plate, and the bread crumbs on a large plate. Whisk the eggs with a pinch of salt in a wide, shallow bowl. Dredge the balls in the flour, and gently flatten them into thick patties. Coat the patties in egg, then dredge them until well coated in the bread crumbs, but not heavily so. Return the breaded patties to the parchment-lined tray.
When you are ready to fry the patties, pour the vegetable oil in the skillet and set over medium heat. The oil is ready when the tip of a patty sizzles on contact. Drop the patties into the skillet in batches, so they are not crowded, and fry for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy. Lift them from the skillet with a slotted spatula, and drain briefly on paper towels. Serve ricotta fritta while still hot. For a savory appetizer or main course: spoon a pool of hot tomato sauce onto each serving plate, set 4 to 6 fried patties per portion in the sauce, and scatter shredded basil on top.
For a dessert dish: top portions of 3 or 4 patties per serving with warmed peach preserves (or any fruit jam or poached fruit) and whipped cream.