This roasted red pepper baked ricotta dip is perfect for holiday entertaining! One of our favorite easy appetizers for a crowd. Vegetarian.
This easy baked ricotta cheese is one of my best holiday appetizers (perfect for Thanksgiving! Christmas! Easter! Super Bowl Sunday! Random Tuesdays!)
It’s also deceptively simple: just blend up an easy roasted red pepper sauce, pour it over some creamy ricotta cheese, and bake. Don’t forget to serve it with plenty of delicious bread for dipping!
Our basic order of operations for this baked cheese dip
- Roast a red pepper until the skin is nice and charred, then peel and de-seed.
- Sauté a shallot with some garlic (we use the same skillet we’ll bake the dip in!) until soft, then transfer the aromatics to a blender with your red pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar and water and blend it up!
- Spread some ricotta across a small skillet, pour the roasted red pepper dip over top, and bake!
This red pepper ricotta is easy to prep in advance! A few of our favorite make-ahead strategies:
- Make the roasted red pepper sauce in advance. Roast the pepper, sauté the aromatics, and blend the sauce as directed. Let it cool completely and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 4 months. When you’re ready to make the dip, just assemble and bake!
- Assemble the dip in advance. Make the red pepper sauce as directed, then let it cool completely. Spread the ricotta out in a cool skillet or baking dish, pour the red pepper sauce on top, then cover with beeswax wrap or plastic wrap and store in the fridge for a day or two until you’re ready to bake.
Additions & Substitutions
This recipe is very forgiving – use what you have on hand and make it your own! Some of our favorite riffs:
- Add your favorite veggies! Stir some roughly chopped spinach or kale in with the ricotta before baking for a pop of green. This dip is also great with caramelized onions – layer them under the ricotta or stir them right into the cheese!
- Add a drizzle of honey, balsamic glaze, or a pinch of flakey sea salt to the finished dish for an extra pop of flavor.
- Make it spicy! Roast a small spicy pepper along with the red pepper and blend it into the sauce. If the pepper is quite large (or quite spicy!) toss just a slice or two in when you sauté the shallot and garlic. I like using a spicy chili pepper or a smokey chipotle pepper in adobo (no need to roast that one – just grab the canned peppers!) but you can also use a jalapeño or poblano here.
- Switch up the cheese. Use goat cheese in place of the ricotta if you like. You can also use a mix of cheeses – just make sure at least one prominent cheese is creamy (like ricotta, goat cheese, or even cream cheese) so that it’s easy to stir and doesn’t burn! We like stirring in a half cup of shredded parmesan, gruyere, mozzarella, white cheddar, fontina, or cubed feta. Use what you have on hand! If you use different cheeses, keep an eye on the dip as it bakes as some cheeses can burn or crisp faster than others.
A simple baked ricotta cheese with roasted red pepper sauce. Perfect for entertaining!
FOR THE RED PEPPER SAUCE:
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 shallot, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- Fresh chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
FOR SERVING (OPTIONAL):
- One baguette, sliced and toasted (see recipe notes for instructions on making crostini!)
- Fresh veggies (carrots, celery, radishes, etc.)
- Assorted crackers
ROAST THE RED PEPPER:
- Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the red bell pepper onto a sheet pan and bake 25-35 minutes until skin is wrinkled and charred.
- Use tongs or a spatula to transfer the bell pepper to a tall bowl. Cover the bowl with a large plate to trap any steam in with the pepper (this makes it easier to peel!) Let cool for 10-15 minutes until pepper is cool enough to handle.
- Peel the skin off the pepper and remove the seeds. Return the peeled pepper to your bowl along with any liquid.
MAKE THE SAUCE:
- In a small, oven-safe skillet (we use a 6-inch cast iron skillet) heat olive oil over medium heat.
- Add shallot and garlic to oil. Sauté 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and fragrant.
- Transfer shallot and garlic to a blender. Add the roasted red pepper and its liquid, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and water. Blend until smooth. Note: When blending warm ingredients, remove the center cap piece while blending to allow steam to escape. Cover the hole in the lid with a tea towel for a moment when you begin blending and again when you stop the blender to avoid spatters.
- Spoon ricotta cheese into your oven-safe skillet (we use the same skillet we sautéed the shallot and garlic in; you can also use a separate baking dish). You don’t need to smooth it out unless you really want to – I like leaving it a bit uneven so that the finished dish looks more interesting!
- Pour your red pepper sauce over the ricotta.
- Bake at 400 F for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is heated through.
- Top baked ricotta with fresh chopped parsley for garnish. Serve immediately with crostini.
Equipment. We used a 6-inch cast iron skillet to sauté the shallot and garlic and then bake the dip. If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, use any skillet you like to sauté the shallot and garlic, and use a separate oven-safe baking dish to bake the ricotta dip. If your blender is especially large, you may want to double the sauce recipe or plan to scrape down the sides of your blender to ensure the sauce gets very smooth. This sauce does not work well with large food processors. As always, exercise caution when blending hot liquids and make sure you remove the top cap to let any steam escape and prevent accidents.
How to make crostini. Lay sliced bread on a baking sheet in a single layer, drizzle with olive oil, and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-7 minutes until lightly toasted.
Riffs and substitutions. Stir kale, spinach, or caramelized onions into the ricotta cheese before baking for extra veggies. Finish dip with a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of flakey sea salt, or a drizzle of balsamic glaze for extra flavor. Use goat cheese in place of ricotta if you like. Add up to 1/2 cup of other cheeses (shredded parmesan, fontina, gruyere, white cheddar, mozzarella) if you like – just keep an eye on the dip as it bakes as some cheeses burn and crisp faster than others.
Make-ahead tips. Make the red pepper sauce as directed, let cool completely, and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for 3-4 months. You can also assemble the entire dip up to a day in advance, cover with beeswax wrap or plastic wrap, and store in the fridge until you’re ready to bake. If you’re using a cast iron skillet to bake the dip, you can transfer it straight from the fridge to the hot oven; if you’re using a glass or ceramic baking dish, place it in a cold oven and let the oven preheat with the dish inside to prevent breaking.
Keywords: holiday, entertaining, christmas