Summer Happy Hour Spreads: Herbed Ricotta, Pea Pesto, & Pimento Cheese

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Well, Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone and I’m so happy it’s the start of another summer season.

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I don’t know if you remember, but I’m such a beach kid. Last year I got my very own beach bike and this year I’m a provisional member at the yacht club where I’ve been tagging along for so many summers now. Who woulda thunk?!

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There’s a lot to do at the yacht club. There’s sailing, obviously, and tennis. Bocce games and dinner dances abound. And I’m looking forward to partaking in all of that. I’m already shopping for tennis shoes at the Nike online store.

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The thing is, I’m joining a yacht club and I don’t know how to sail or play tennis. My bocce game is…rookie. But I am ready for one thing: Friday evening happy hours. If you get down early enough on a Friday, you head over to the club, you bring your beer or your wine or your dark n’ stormy ingredients (coming up next), and if you’re really good, you bring a snack to share.

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And boy, do I have some snacks to share. Specifically, dips and spreads. These are some of my favorite party foods to make. They’re easy, they’re crowd-pleasers, and I love to eat off bread.

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So today I share with you three of my favorites to make: herbed ricotta, pea pesto, and pimento cheese. They’ll be making the rounds with me all summer at yacht club happy hours, and I think they should make the rounds wherever you’re spending time this summer, too.

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Ina’s Herbed Ricotta

“Adapted” from Ina Garten

Yields: About 2 cups


4 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

A good handful or two of parlsey, chopped finely

2-3 scallions, chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a heavy bottomed pot, add the milk, the cream, and a teaspoon of kosher salt. Stir and bring to a boil over medium heat. While this comes to a boil, line a sieve with two layers of damp cheesecloth. Place the sieve over a deep bowl. (The sieve will need to be rather large. Mine is only just big enough.)
  2. Once the milk comes to a boil, turn the heat off and stir in three tablespoons of white wine vinegar. (You’ll want to watch the milk so it doesn’t scorch and so it doesn’t boil over the top of the pot.)
  3. Let it sit for a minute, until you see it curdle. You’ll notice it separate into thick parts and milky parts.
  4. Pour this into the sieve and let drain for 20-30 minutes, until it reaches the thickness you prefer. Empty the bowl as needed. (Or, if you’re interested, keep the whey for other uses.)
  5. Once the ricotta has drained, put it in a clean bowl. Add the parsley and the scallions, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Serve warm or cold on toasted bread (sourdough is great) or rice crackers.

*Note: You can add any herbs you want. Ina makes this with dill, chives, and scallions. I just made it again with parsley, thyme, and lemon zest and it’s my new favorite combination. Try different seasonings until you find your favorite!

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Pea Pesto

Recipe from Plentytude (website defunct)

Yields: About 2 cups


One 10-ounce bag of frozen peas, at room temperature

2-3 garlic cloves

3/4 cup grated Parmesan

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a food processor, blitz the garlic for a few seconds. Then add the peas, and blitz again.
  2. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the processor is running.
  3. Add the parmesan, salt, and pepper, and mix until combined.

*Note: You can adjust almost any of these measurements to your liking. I eyeball the olive oil and Parmesan every time.

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Pimento Cheese

Adapted from The Lee Brothers

Yields: 1 ½ cups


8 ounces sharp orange cheddar cheese, grated

¼ – ½ cup cottage cheese

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon grated yellow onion

About ½ cup of jarred pimentos, or roasted red pepper chopped

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place the cottage cheese, about half the cheddar, and the onion in a food processor. Blend for about 10-15 seconds.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix the cheese mixture, the rest of the cheese, pimentos, salt and pepper together.

*Note: you can mix everything together without a processor and call it a day, but I like to disguise the cottage cheese a little bit. You can also use cream cheese instead.

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**NOTE ABOUT ALL SPREADS: Spreads like these are great because it’s so easy to personalize all of them. The recipe is more like a suggestion. The ricotta making itself is the only real science here. Everything else is easy to customize. Also, all of these dips will benefit from a day or two to rest in the fridge. It really helps the flavors absorb.

6 thoughts on “Summer Happy Hour Spreads: Herbed Ricotta, Pea Pesto, & Pimento Cheese

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