With an array of colorful berries and fresh herbs, this Holiday Cheese Board with Sage Honey Ricotta makes an impressive table scape of delicious nibbles for all party guests. A mix of cheeses, dry-cured meats, fresh fruits, and nuts is complimented by a simple whipped ricotta spread infused with fresh sage and honey. It may look and sound fancy, but a cheese board, or a charcuterie board, is one of the easiest party appetizer platters ever to prepare! Below I’m sharing my secrets on how to assemble a cheese board as well as how to make a cheese board look attractive.
During the holidays, I love entertaining, planning menus, and baking sweet treats. Sometimes, however, I enjoy keeping the party simple—and being a bit more spontaneous—by serving a dessert (even one I pick up from the bakery) alongside a beautiful charcuterie or cheese board display. That’s especially appealing for me this year since I’ve been out of town (and away from my own kitchen) for the past few weeks while I’m visiting with my daughter and new granddaughter!
Needless to say, all of us have been a little distracted with rocking and cuddling our precious little girl who is one-week-old today, so our time in the kitchen has been limited. This year, our holidays will revolve around baby feedings and diaper changes, hugs and kisses—we are so blessed!
How to assemble a cheese board:
- Choose three different cheeses for a balanced cheese board: a hard, aged cheese, a soft/semi-soft cheese or a creamy cheese spread—in this case, my savory sage honey ricotta spread— and a blue cheese.
- Hard cheese options could include a wedge of Asiago or Manchego.
- Soft cheese spreads could include an herb-infused goat cheese, a creamy brie, or even a spreadable Dubliner drizzled with a little honey. Below you’ll find a simple recipe for making whipped ricotta with fresh sage and honey for the soft cheese option.
- Blue cheese will pair well with the sweets on the cheese board. Ask for a sample of different blue cheeses at any speciality grocery counter to find the one that you like best. For me, I prefer a milder blue.
- Add condiments to compliment and enhance the flavors of the cheese. Again, there are three simple rules to remember.
- Add something salty or briny. A small bowl of nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios) will add a little crunch. A nice summer sausage, genoa salami, prosciutto, or slices of ham will turn your cheese board into a charcuterie (cured meats).
- Add something sweet like honey to balance the cheese. One of my favorite spreads for cheese is fig jam (which pairs especially well with Manchego).
- Add fresh fruit—grapes, berries, apple or pear slices—or dried fruit like figs or apricots. For the Christmas season, you might want to add candied citrus slices which can be purchased at specialty grocery stores, or you could make your own with this recipe.
- Provide an assortment of crackers, thin breadsticks, or a sliced baguette and allow your guests to experiment with layering the cheeses and other goodies.
How to make a cheese board look attractive
- Choose a cheese board or a wood cutting board with handle as the base for all the food items. Other options could be a slate or marble board, whatever fits with your style. For my holiday cheese board, I chose a large wood cutting board and used a colorful bowl for my whipped ricotta spread. Think about the colors of the fruit or berries and choose a small bowl that is complementary.
- Place the cheese on the board first, leaving space between. Think about either placing the cheese in a diagonal line or in a triangle.
- Next, add the crackers in opposite corners or sides, keeping the same type of crackers together. If you are using dry-cured meats, place this in any large open area.
- Add the fruit and nuts last. For my holiday cheese board, I used one large cluster of grapes to anchor the board, then sprinkled open spaces on the board with my remaining berries and nuts, sliced dried figs and candied citrus slices.
- Don’t worry about arranging all the ingredients perfectly. Garnish the board with sprigs of rosemary, sage leaves, and pomegranate arils.
Make your own soft cheese spread
Drizzle a little extra honey on top of the whipped Sage Honey Ricotta spread and garnish with pomegranate arils for an extra special touch. Whipped ricotta takes just five minutes to prepare and is a nice spread with a bite of fruit or charcuterie. I first tried whipped ricotta on this Savory Fig Ricotta Toast which also makes a tasty appetizer!
You may also need…
- A set of fancy cheese knives. This set with a gold finish looks especially classy and festive!
- A slate cheese marker set with liquid chalk
- Gold confetti cocktail napkins
Whipped Sage Honey Ricotta Spread
- 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 6-8 fresh sage leaves, minced
- 2 tablespoons honey
Cheese Board Ingredient Suggestions
- hard cheese (i.e., Manchego)
- blue cheese
- nuts (almonds, pistachios, walnuts)
- dried figs or candied citrus slices
- berries of your choice (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries)
- grapes or apple/pear slices
- rosemary sprigs for garnish
- pomegranate arils for garnish (optional)
- In a small bowl, whisk the ricotta together with lemon juice, olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Add the minced sage and honey and stir. You may adjust the amount of honey to your taste.