Use Ricotta To Add An Italian Flair To Boxed Brownie Mix

The beauty of boxed brownie mix is that nearly all the work is done for you already, which leaves you a little extra time to make things interesting. Because, sure, those boxed brownies are pretty darn good on their own ... but once you're done with the one-minute process of mixing the batter, there's unlimited potential to level them up.

If you're looking for ways to make that go-to box of brownies taste even better, we've got just the thing to add a creamy and classy Italian touch: ricotta cheese. Whether you want to add moisture, deepen the layers of flavor, or transform your brownies into a cheesecake-like treat, ricotta is the small addition you need for delectable brownies.

Cheese and brownies might seem a little counterintuitive but just go with us on this one. There are multiple ways to incorporate ricotta into your brownie mix and each one might be more delicious than the last.

Three ways to add ricotta to your brownies

There are a few ways you can go about adding this star ingredient to your brownies. The most simple and straightforward way? Simply add some ricotta cheese to your brownie mix along with your other main ingredients. Once baked, you'll notice your brownies are extra moist and fudgy with a hint of that sponge-like ricotta texture.

Another approach is the crowd-pleasing cheesecake brownie. To use ricotta as a cheesecake layer, you'll want to create a separate cheese mixture with the ricotta, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. For that pretty "marbled" effect, layer the cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter, and then drop some spoonfuls of reserved brownie batter on top. From there, use a knife to swirl the cheese and batter together. (If you're not into the swirling, you can layer the mixtures for more of a cheese-stuffed brownie).

Lastly, ricotta is a key ingredient in cannolis ... so why not make cannoli brownies? To make a cannoli "frosting" or topping for your brownies, mix the ricotta with mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt, and mini chocolate chips (you can even throw in some orange zest if you're feeling fancy). Simply bake your boxed brownie batter as you normally would and top it off with a thick layer of cannoli goodness.

Pro tips for using ricotta in your desserts

What makes ricotta such a good addition to desserts in the first place? Its light, creamy texture adds extra moisture, and its not-too-sweet, almost nutty flavor highlights the richness of bold ingredients like chocolate. But there are a few important tips to make sure ricotta shines in your desserts.

While you want the benefits of the natural moisture that ricotta adds to the mix, you don't want to overdo it or create a watery texture. Since ricotta is such a wet cheese, a good way to control this is to strain the cheese before you add it to your dessert. You can use a cheesecloth or a thin kitchen towel to squeeze or press out some of the extra liquid so you only get the good stuff.

Another rule of thumb: When in doubt, go for whole milk ricotta cheese. Especially in desserts, you want — and most likely need — the fat for the best results. Using whole milk rather than part-skim ricotta will ensure the cheese is thicker, creamier, smoother, and richer. It may add a few extra calories, but you'll score some bonus protein as well (and let's be honest, this is a dessert we're talking about).