Ricotta cheese is mostly thought of as an ingredient in lasagna, but do you know any more about it than that?
The word ricotta means recooked. This comes from the fact that ricotta is made using the whey that is a by-product during the making of other cheeses. Cheeses like the Italian favorite mozzarella. Italians make a lot of cheese and have for years. Disposing of the amount of whey left after an epic session of cheese making was an issue. Out of a problem comes a tasty solution.
The American version adds a bit of milk to the whey to get the wetter, and creamier ricotta you are familiar with at the grocery store. For this reason, some traditional Italian recipes you may suggest to strain your cheese so it isn’t as wet. It will be mentioned if needed, but keep it in mind if your dish comes out more running than you anticipated.
- Not technically a cheese because there is no starter, bacteria to make cheese, or rennet, an enzyme used to thicken cheese, is used in ricotta making. Because of this ricotta is considered a dairy product instead of a cheese.
- Due to a short shelf life some ricotta can be processed further to increase shelf life. Ricotta salata, a firm salted variety; ricotta infornata, is placed in the oven to give it a brown crust; ricotta affumicata, is put in a smoker for a grey crust and smoke flavor; ricotta forte, is all the leftover ricotta fermented for about a year making a pungent spreadable cheese.
- If you can’t get ricotta for your lasagna you can put cottage cheese in the food processor, drain off excess liquid using cheesecloth, and continue with the recipe.
- Simple to make at home. All you need is milk, cream, salt, and lemon juice. Try the recipe from Epicurious next time you make lasagna.
Where you can use Ricotta:
- lasagna – a spicy italian sausage lasagna
- gnudi - a ricotta dumpling similar to gnocchi
- ravioli – honeymoon ravioli filled with all kinds of cheese
- manicotti – for your next meatless monday
- cheesecake – lemon ricotta cheesecake
- cannoli – leave the gun take the cannoli
- cookies – recipe here on Friday!