Ricotta’s versatility is vastly underappreciated. It is a soft, granular cheese with a texture somewhere between yogurt and cottage cheese. The taste is mild, milky, salty and slightly acidic.

And that acid is key; it makes the proteins heat resistant. In other words, the cheese doesn’t melt. This is why ricotta is such a fine choice for lasagna, stuffed shells, ravioli and cheesecake. What else can you do with it?

• It pairs wonderfully with that other Italian import — pizza. Top a red or white pizza with mounds of ricotta and bake as you normally would.

• Fill overturned portobello mushroom caps with ricotta mixed with chopped fresh herbs and garlic, then grill over medium heat until the bottoms are browned and the cheese is hot.

• Spike ricotta with honey and cinnamon, then layer in wide glasses with fresh berries for a parfait.

• Cut slits into boneless, skinless chicken breasts, then spoon herbed ricotta into the center. Dredge the stuffed chicken breasts through egg, flour and panko breadcrumbs, then bake.

— J.M. Hirsch

Associated Press