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Strawberries with Ricotta Mousse (Fragole con il “Mousse” di Ricotta)

In Rome, nothing evokes summer better than capping off a dinner with a dish of fresh fragole (strawberries) or fragoline di bosco (wild strawberries). The best are from the town of Nemi, which sits on a picturesque rise above a lake of the same name, southeast of Rome. A scoop of crema (custard) gelato or a squeeze of lemon juice and spoonful of sugar are the usual accompaniments for the berries, but their partner in this recipe is a sweet and decadent mix of ricotta, mascarpone cheese and whipped cream.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. whole milk ricotta cheese, preferably fresh
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese 
  • 2/3 cup sugar 
  • 1/4 cup rum or brandy 
  • 1 cup heavy cream 
  • 1 lb. strawberries, hulled and quartered lengthwise 
  • 2 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar 
  • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar 
  • Fresh mint leaves for garnish 

Directions:

To prepare the mousse, if the ricotta is very fresh and still throwing off clear liquid, spoon it into a colander or a piece of cheesecloth and suspend over a bowl. Cover it and leave it to drain in the refrigerator until it is quite dry, which can take up to 24 hours. (If using commercial ricotta, skip this step.) For a smoother texture, remove the ricotta from the refrigerator and force through a coarse-mesh sieve placed over a bowl. For a more rustic texture, use the drained ricotta as is.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, mascarpone, granulated sugar and rum. Using a rubber spatula, mix until well blended.

In another bowl, using a balloon whisk or a handheld mixer on medium-high speed, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Using the spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the ricotta mixture until blended.

Have ready six 1-cup glass bowls or goblets. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the bowls, dividing it evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours to let the flavors meld.

About 1 hour before serving, place the strawberries in a bowl, stir in the confectioners’ sugar, cover and refrigerate until serving.

To serve, stir the vinegar into the strawberries. Top each portion with the berries and their juices. Garnish with mint leaves and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Rome, by Constance Snow (Oxmoor House, 2005).