The Simple Dessert Giada De Laurentiis Ate Every Week As A Child

There's something to be said for satisfying desserts that are so easy to make that they're practically effortless. TikTok users have discovered this joy in simplicity as videos for ricotta toast have gone viral, and users share the many different ways it can be made. The creative variations they've come up with are endless, and the comments these posts have received are in the millions. Declared the new avocado toast, ricotta toast in all manner of sweet and savory forms has taken the internet by storm. But this humble indulgence is nothing new; in fact, it's a delicacy that Giada De Laurentiis has been enjoying since she was a child.

Inspired at an early age by her famed movie producer grandfather, Dino De Laurentiis, she formed a close bond with him as they connected over their shared love of food. In a feature for First We Feast, she recalled the De Laurentiis family's weekly Sunday feasts at his house when everyone would gather for all-day lunches. Afterward, her grandfather would put together a special treat just for the two of them — a helping of fresh ricotta cheese sprinkled with granulated sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder. And that's it.

Just those three plain ingredients with their crunchy, creamy, and soft textures left their indelible mark on the young De Laurentiis, and it's a delicious combo she still loves to this day. By adding just a few refinements, like putting it on crusty bread, her popular chocolate ricotta toast was born.

How to make chocolate ricotta toast

Leave it to Giada De Laurentiis to turn her tasty childhood memory into a delectable dish. She demonstrated how to make it on her Food Network TV show, "Giada In Italy." The elevated version of her grandfather's simple preparation stays true to the original ... but is even better. 

The main change is the toast, a natural progression that not only makes perfect sense, but also makes it easier to eat, and impossible to resist. To make the toast, she brushes ciabatta with olive oil and crisps it on the grill, but you could just as easily do this in a toaster. Meanwhile, she mixes some sugar into her ricotta but then switches up her grandfather's method and adds a touch of vanilla extract and a dash of cinnamon for a bit more complexity. She puts it all together by generously spreading the ricotta onto the hot toast, which starts to lightly melt the sweetened cheese and adds to the textural experience. She finishes it off by topping everything with grated dark chocolate. 

Not being bound by De Laurentiis family traditions, you are free to adapt this to your liking. Experiment with different flavors. For example, you can mix in some tangy lemon zest and honey. Or leave off the chocolate and top with sliced strawberries, a chiffonade of basil, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Try substituting brown sugar instead of white and give it even more crunch with slivered almonds.

More desserts made with luxurious ricotta cheese

Giada De Laurentiis' crispy sheet pan lasagna is made with ricotta, and the classic baked pasta dish is the way many people are most familiar with the cheese. Thick and creamy ricotta is a mild cheese with a neutral profile that pairs just as well with sweets as with salty and savory dishes. It's the sweet filling rolled inside of cannoli; it's used in crispelle (Italian fried dough balls), and it can be layered into parfaits and trifles. Ricotta also works exceptionally well in cakes, pies, and all sorts of baked goods.

De Laurentiis uses it in pound cakes and cheesecakes – where it basically stands as a replacement for cream cheese. She puts it in chocolate pie, pancakes, and she even blends it with espresso when making cappuccinos. The rich and creamy cheese is perfect in her lemon ricotta cookies, which turn out soft and cake-like and are covered in a sweet and tart lemon glaze ... just right for dunking into coffee.