If you’re a fan of Italian food, you might already have experienced ricotta cheese as a filling for cannoli, a stuffing for shells, or a layer in lasagna.
Ricotta is an unassuming and useful cheese that is also cheap and widely available, which is why it’s often used in a variety of Italian recipes.
If you’ve never tried ricotta, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. In this article, we’ll look at ricotta cheese, what it is, where it comes from, and how you can best enjoy it for yourself.
What Does Ricotta Cheese Look Like?
Ricotta cheese is a white creamy cheese with a fine granular texture.
Unlike cottage cheese, which is probably what it looks most similar to, it doesn’t have large curds. Instead, fresh ricotta is both creamy and grainy, with tiny granules rather than curds.
In general, ricotta looks similar to cottage cheese although it is lighter in color, smoother and creamier.
What Texture Does Ricotta Cheese Have?
As a whey-based, soft cheese, ricotta is very different from a hard cheese like Parmigiano, or something softer like mozzarella.
Ricotta is wet and creamy, with a fine granular texture. These grains are small but very soft. They are more like tiny, soft cheese curds than little balls of rubber.
What Are The Types Of Ricotta Cheese?
Ricotta cheese is all made in the same way and typically is made from cow’s milk.
However, there are different ways that ricotta is aged and cured that create different varieties of ricotta you might be able to find at your local grocery store.
The first is fresh ricotta, which is the simplest. There’s a neutral and creamy flavor to fresh ricotta that makes it the easiest to pair with other ingredients and the most versatile.
Ricotta infornata is baked ricotta that develops a charred and crusty exterior.
Ricotta affumicata is popular for cheese plates and canapes. It looks similar to baked brie. Ricotta affumicata is smoked. It develops a brown exterior crust and a rich, smoky, and interesting flavor.
The process of smoking ricotta increases its hardness so you can eat it as sliced cheese.
Ricotta forte is a special delicacy. This form of ricotta uses different types of milk, including goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, and cow’s milk.
The process of creating a ricotta forte takes up to a year, during which the cheese is salted and allowed to age. Ricotta forte is a creamy brown paste with a powerful and overwhelming smoky flavor.
Ricotta salata, meaning salted ricotta, is just salted and aged ricotta.
One of the issues with ricotta cheese is that it doesn’t last very long. So to keep it around for longer, adding salt creates a different kind of cheese with a slightly stronger flavor. However, it becomes less versatile when it’s salted.
One of the strengths of ricotta cheese is that you can use it for almost anything and ricotta salata is not as suitable for sweet dishes, especially.
Where Does Ricotta Cheese Come From?
Ricotta cheese is a whey-based cheese as opposed to curd-based cheese.
Have you heard of the phrase “separating the curds and whey”?
Typically, in the process of cheesemaking, curds, or the desirable part of the milk, are separated from the undesirable whey.
However, in the case of ricotta cheese, the whey is actually what constitutes the base.
Ricotta means re-cooked or reheated in Italian, and that refers to reheating the whey to a temperature just below boiling but above what might be considered cooking temperature.
This causes the cheese to coagulate again and the whey to form a soft and mild ricotta.
In America, ricotta cheese is often made by adding whole milk to the way rather than just reheating it, which causes American ricotta cheese to be creamier and fattier than the Italian variety.
Is Ricotta Cheese Healthy?
Ricotta cheese includes several important nutrients that you can benefit from, including riboflavin, vitamin A, and zinc, as well as vitamin B12.
Ricotta cheese also includes carbohydrates and a fair amount of protein per serving.
However, it’s tough to recommend ricotta as unconditionally healthy because it does contain more fat than some other cheeses and a lot of that fat is saturated fat and cholesterol.
There’s also a significant amount of sodium in ricotta cheese, although it’s less than feta.
If you’re looking for the most health-conscious cheese, cottage cheese has a similar flavor and can be used in a lot of the same recipes with a quarter of the saturated fat of ricotta cheese.
For this reason, although ricotta cheese is adored for its flavor and its variety of useful applications, cottage cheese is considered the healthier option.
What Are The Dangers Of Ricotta Cheese?
It’s very safe to eat ricotta. And you’re unlikely to have any kind of allergic reaction or health issue as a result of eating ricotta cheese unless you have a milk allergy.
The main concern about eating ricotta cheese is about the high levels of saturated fat and bad cholesterol. Regularly eating a diet that is high in ricotta cheese could cause you to gain weight and increase your risk for heart disease.
How Can I Store Ricotta Cheese?
Ricotta cheese doesn’t last very long, so you’ll want to eat it fairly quickly after you buy it and open it. The best way to store ricotta cheese is to keep it in the refrigerator in a sealed container for three to five days.
Although some real retailers claim that ricotta cheese can last up to 2 weeks, in many cases this is optimistic.
To be safe with it, make sure you add the date that you open the ricotta cheese on a piece of tape and place it on the outside of the container. That way you don’t have an unpleasant experience tasting it to see whether or not it is expired.
Can You Freeze Ricotta Cheese?
Yes, you can freeze ricotta cheese for one to two months in the freezer in a sealed airtight container.
Although you can eat ricotta cheese that’s been in the freezer longer than this. It’s probably not a good idea because the flavor will start to suffer.
How Can I Tell If Ricotta Cheese Is Bad?
The last thing that anyone wants is to take a spoonful of expired ricotta cheese and put it in their mouth!
Before you eat ricotta that has been in the refrigerator for a while, take a close look.
If you notice any mold or black spots, you should throw that out. Ricotta that has become darker or yellow will also need to be thrown away. Smell it closely for a sour smell.
If you detect any sourness rather than a light and neutral sweet smell, your ricotta cheese has gone bad.
Ricotta Cheese Vs. Cottage Cheese
These two kinds of cheese are very similar and some use them interchangeably, especially in lasagna. However, there are some important differences between ricotta cheese and cottage cheese.
Cottage cheese is a curd cheese that comes in small, medium, and large curd varieties. It also has a neutral and mild flavor that is comparable to ricotta, but it’s a little bit saltier and less sweet.
One of the major reasons that people choose cottage cheese over ricotta cheese is because it has a lower fat content. The saturated fat in ricotta cheese is four times that of cottage cheese.
For those on a diet trying to lose weight, it makes sense to replace ricotta in a recipe with cottage cheese.
With that said, ricotta cheese does have more calcium and selenium as well as vitamins like vitamins A, E, D, and B12.
There are also more carbohydrates in cottage cheese than in ricotta, which makes ricotta a better choice for low-carb or keto diets.
You can use either ricotta cheese or cottage cheese in most savory Italian recipes like stuffed shells or lasagna, but you will only want to use ricotta for sweet dishes like desserts.
Cottage cheese doesn’t have the same sweetness and will not take ricotta’s place in a cheesecake, for example.
Ricotta Cheese Nutrition Information
|per 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (129g) as per verywellfit.com|
Ricotta Cheese Recipes: Quick Table
|Italian Almond Ricotta Cake||289||1 hour 2 minutes|
|Spinach And Ricotta Stuffed Shells||545||1 hour 10 minutes|
|Broccoli Ricotta Bites||62||30 minutes|
This delicious traditional Italian dessert featuring ricotta is perfect for afternoon tea or an after-dinner coffee.
You can’t really taste the essence of ricotta cheese in this recipe, but it lends moisture, sweetness, and subtle cheesy flavor to this delicious cake.
The recipe is easy to follow, and it’s a traditional Italian classic. You’ll want to make it again and again!
Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 2 minutes
Everyone’s favorite use for ricotta is stuffed shells. The mellow ricotta flavor is never more at home than if it is wrapped in a pasta shell and covered in sauce.
After all, what goes better together than cheese and pasta?
Ricotta cheese has a sweet and neutral flavor that brings out the best in the sauce, and the texture combination of al dente pasta and soft ricotta is mouth-watering. Don’t miss this classic Italian use of ricotta.
Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
RELATED: Does Cream Cheese Go Bad?
This delicious appetizer from Galbani cheese is bound to be a favorite, especially with kids. If they’re not crazy about eating their broccoli, try pairing that with a delicious bit of ricotta!
This recipe requires a deep fryer, but it will work equally well in the oven. Ricotta doesn’t melt, so that’s an issue you don’t need to worry about. The best thing about this is that you can eat it right off a stick!
Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Ricotta Cheese Strong Tasting?
No ricotta cheese has a very neutral and mild flavor that makes it easy to pair with a variety of different ingredients.
Although fresh ricotta is very mild and creamy. There are some stronger varieties of ricotta, including ricotta salata and ricotta forte, that have been aged or cured to provide a stronger taste experience.
What Is Ricotta Cheese Similar To?
Ricotta is probably most similar to cottage cheese, and the two are usually used interchangeably in lasagna and stuffed shells. They both have a mild, somewhat sweet flavor.
Does Ricotta Cheese Taste Like Mozzarella?
Mozzarella and ricotta cheese both have a mild and neutral flavor, especially compared to some sharper and more flavorful cheeses. However, they also have many differences.
Mozzarella has a completely different texture than ricotta cheese. Also, mozzarella will melt whereas ricotta cheese won’t. In general, ricotta cheese is very different from mozzarella and what they have in common is a neutral and mild flavor.
What Do You Eat Ricotta With?
You can eat ricotta on its own with crackers or fruit and this is a popular way to enjoy it. Ricotta pairs well with pineapple, melon, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, apples, and pears.
You can also use ricotta in a variety of popular and beloved Italian dishes like stuffed shells and lasagna. You can even incorporate ricotta into a variety of desserts and make ricotta cheesecake.
Ricotta cheese and dishes pair well with Riesling wine, dry or sweet, as well as other crisp white wines, especially those with fruit notes.
Does Ricotta Cheese Melt?
Ricotta cheese is a creamy, whey-based cheese that will not melt. Some varieties of ricotta can be hardened to make sliced cheese, but these still will not melt. Even when used as a pizza topping, ricotta keeps the same form rather than melting.
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