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Tips & Info

The Quality of Ricotta Counts

Ricotta cheese has been in existence for centuries in Italy, but here in the United States, quality ricotta cheese can be difficult to find. Essentially, ricotta developed as a way to use and ultimately sell as much of the byproducts of cheese making as possible. True ricotta is made with the whey strained from cheese and combined with a starter and a little salt. However, in today’s supermarkets, there are many types of ricotta and most of them contain fillers, thickeners and preservatives leaving a product, which should be decadent and rich in flavor, that is tasteless, mealy and dry.

To find a quality ricotta, look at the ingredients on the container. They should be extremely basic: whey, rennet, milk, vinegar and salt. Depending on the type, cream could be added as well. If it sounds simple, that’s because it is! Ricotta should be light and fluffy, slightly sweet, with a nice mouth feel. Any hint of sourness indicates a product that is about to turn. Always check the expiration date on the container to ensure your ricotta is fresh.

If you can’t find good ricotta, it is very simple to make at home, and there are many recipes available. Once you’ve made your ricotta, you can strain it to get the exact consistency you want. Ricotta strained for less time (30 minutes) will yield a cheese that contains more liquid and is creamier. It’s ideal to add to lasagna for extra creaminess. Ricotta that has been strained overnight becomes more firm and is great for use in pastries such as cannoli.