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Ricotta Cheese in Cooking
Ricotta Cheese in Cooking

Out of approximately five hundred kinds of cheese produced in Italy, the most tender and sweetish Ricotta is definitely in top ten gourmet preferences, along with Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Burrata and other cheese delicacies. Savory sauces for spaghetti, Sicilian cannoli, fruit cakes, desserts, pastries, appetizers served with fine wines – that’s what Italians use Ricotta for, and with them – the entire world.

The peculiar thing about this cheese is that it is made not from milk, but from whey removed during the production of rennet cheese (for example, Mozzarella). They warm up the whey, without bringing it to boil, and collect flakes from a flaky mass that surfaces.

Actually, the word “ricotta” means “recooked”. The Italian cheese makers use the milk of almost all types of animals – cows and goats, sheep or buffaloes – to produce this cheese. By the way, you can make this cheese even in home environment, if you have a tested recipe.

Culinary Use of Ricotta

The taste of cheese is a bit sweet, the color is white-and-cream, and the creamy, curdy texture is somewhat grainy and incredibly tender.

By all means, only those who have ever lived in Italy can fully understand what Ricotta cheese is; hundreds of different recipes were invented there, the homeland of this product: from salads and sauces to delicious desserts and mouthwatering baked foods.

The cheese is versatile, and it can be used for cooking of first and second course dishes, appetizers, gravy, pies, and etc. Aged and smoked Ricotta is usually served as any other cheese: with vegetables, greens, bread, and offering wine with the meal – it is, generally, the best thing Ricotta can be served with: that’s how this cheese fully reveals its flavor. A common white type of Ricotta can be used as stuffing for ravioli and pies; it is great in pizzas and lasagna. But this dairy product is widely used in confectionery. They use it for preparation of casseroles, cheesecakes, cupcakes, and as filler for cakes and pies. For these purposes, they usually use young cheese.

What Could it be Replaced with?

This Italian cultured dairy product is similar to some other dairy products.

If necessary, you can replace it, for example, with Philadelphia, Mascarpone, Buco and Almette creamy cheeses.

A great option is a delicious, but very expensive Fromage Blanc – buttery cheese with the texture of a yogurt.

If you are looking for a simpler version, use fresh soft cottage cheese or very fresh goat cheese.

More substitutes for Ricotta cheese can be found here.

Buying and Storing Ricotta

When choosing Ricotta cheese, pay attention to its expiration date and color of the product: it should be white (see photo). If you buy cheese by weight, ask the salesperson to give it to you to taste it. Ricotta should be soft and tender; if it is not, the product is considered stale. If you feel a strong acid flavor, do not buy this cheese, because it is spoiled.

Ricotta cheese is one of those products that are not suitable for long-term storage. Even if you use vacuum packaging, you can keep the product in the refrigerator for no more than 3 days. If you bought a hard kind of Ricotta, it can retain its freshness for up to 2 weeks.

But if you really need to store it, the storage life of this cheese can be significantly extended. According to DiligentChef, Ricotta cheese can be frozen.

What Yummy Dishes Can I Make with Ricotta?

The most famous classic dish with Ricotta is the Italian Easter Cake Pastiera; its recipe, according to the Italians, is over 2,000 years old.

Also incredibly delicious are Sicilian cannoli and fruit cakes made from this cheese.

Versatile Ricotta allows you to create a divine dessert without baking. It is very nice when it’s hot outside or, if you need some treat to be made quickly. You can simply combine it with a citrus peel, add vanilla or rose water, fruit, cocoa or crushed chocolate, season it with cinnamon or pour young honey over it.

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