Ricotta Cheese is one of the most popular Italian types of whey cheese all around the world. You have probably eaten it, and if you have, then I bet you love it. But what exactly is, how is it made, how do you consume it and can you freeze ricotta cheese?
Three words should immediately come to your mind when you think of Ricotta Cheese – light, spongy and glorious! On the more theoretical side, Ricotta Cheese is an Italian classic cheese which can be made from cow’s, sheep’s, goat’s or water buffalo’s milk. However, the traditional and most commercial one, which we usually buy from the grocery store is produced from cow’s milk.
The Ricotta Cheese is creamy, white in appearance and slightly sweet in taste. The fat content changes depending on the brand and the type of milk used. It is somewhat similar in texture to some cottage cheese variants, though considerably lighter.
How is the Ricotta Cheese produced?
The word “ricotta” translates to “recooked” in Italian. But why is that? Usually, the cheese production happens by separating two distinctive parts of the milk. To separate them the milk is being filtered, and a liquid, called whey, is extracted. Passing the liquid through a fine cheesecloth, leaves a solid part behind, called curd. The curd is being pressed to form most of the cheeses on the market. However, the Ricotta Cheese is produced from the tiny bits of leftover cords left in the liquid whey.
To put it simply, our lovely Ricotta Cheese is made by reheating the leftover whey from the production of other types of cheese, such as provolone and mozzarella. The cheese is highly perishable, but the Ricotta is also made in aged varieties which are preservable for much longer.
How to make a homemade Ricotta Cheese?
We will use the moment and your attention to quickly mention how easy it is to make a homemade Ricotta Cheese. Milk, lemon juice and a half-hour of your time (most of it hands off) is all you need to make the homemade cheese and never turn back to the ones from the grocery stores.
- Use a whole milk for the best results (although a 2% would also do the magic). Put a ½ gallon in a pot and bring it almost to a simmer.
- Add 1/3 cup of lemon juice (or vinegar) and a teaspoon salt and stir. Remove from the heat.
- Let the pot of milk sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. The milk should get separated into thin, watery, yellow-colored whey and clumps of milky white curds.
- Strain the curds through a cheesecloth for 10 to 60 minutes depending on how moisturized you prefer it.
Voilà! You now have a freshly homemade Ricotta Cheese, which tastes much better than the once in the stores. You can use it for your lasagna, pizza, or whatever delicious plans you have in store. If you have prepared more than you need, you can store it in a container and leave in the fridge for up to one week.
Can you freeze Ricotta Cheese?
Are you tired of throwing away spoiled food from your fridge, just because you opened a product, used 2 spoons of it and then you are left with an open, halfway full package that cannot be used more than two days later? We know the feeling. The usual solution to this problem is leaving the product in the freezer for a later use.
Ricotta Cheese is one of these products that are usually found in grocery stores in containers of 400 grams, but you only need to top your meal with a spoon of it. On top of that, it is not only quite pricey, but it is one of the cheeses that can be stored in a fridge only for up to one week.
After that, you will notice a pinky color on the surface indicating that the cheese has gone bad. So, can you simply freeze it to save it for the next time a recipe calls for it? The short answer is – yes, you can freeze it, but it is a bit more complicated than simply leaving it in the freezer.
Keep in mind that using frozen Ricotta Cheese is not the same as using a fresh one. Due to the high moisture content in the cheese, the water turns into ice and once defrosted, the liquid gets separated from the rest.
This process affects the texture, making the cheese drier and crumblier. Therefore, the frozen Ricotta Cheese can only be used for certain recipes, usually for cooked meals. For salads or unbaked desserts, for example, you might consider using a fresh one in order to achieve a better flavor.
How to freeze Ricotta Cheese?
Freezing Ricotta is an easy and quick process and if you follow some easy pre-freezing steps you will later consume a thawed cheese with a flavor and texture almost as good as a fresh one.
As we mentioned above, the Ricotta Cheese is very moisturized which is why the texture usually gets drier once defrosted. Therefore, the first thing we should take care of is to remove the excess liquid. You can do that by pressing the cheese with a spoon and taking the whey out. An alternative way is to press the cheese with a kitchen paper to absorb the liquid. Stop when no more water drips out.
Once you have gotten rid of the water, stir it to freeze more evenly. For storing the Ricotta Cheese you can use a freezer bag or an airtight container. We would give you a small tip to divide the cheese in portions, wrapped in plastic foil so that you don’t have to defrost the whole package when you need a tiny bit again. Push the air out of all plastic wrapped pieces, put them in a freezer bag and close tightly.
Another tricky way of freezing the Ricotta Cheese in individual servings is using an ice cube tray. Distribute the cheese in the tray and wrap in plastic foil. This option requires less plastic usage and it is very convenient as it creates many small portions and you can defrost exactly the amount you need later on.
Keep in mind that the cheese can only stay in the fridge for up to two months, so it might be a good idea to write down the date on the freeze bag, container or the ice cube tray before leaving it in the fridge. Doing so, you will always be sure that the frozen cheese has not yet expired. After following this procedure you have prepared your cheese for freezing in the correct way.
If you have bought the Ricotta Cheese from the grocery store and you haven’t opened it yet, you can simply leave it in the freezer in its original container.
How do you defrost Ricotta Cheese?
Okay, now you have a frozen Ricotta and you need to use some for dinner tonight. How do you thaw it in a way that the cheese remains nice and moisturized? You have three options to choose between:
- Leave the Ricotta cheese in the fridge. Defrosting the cheese in the fridge is the best and safest way to do it and we recommend you choosing this option if you have the time. Thawing the Ricotta in the refrigerator might require leaving it there for a few hours (somewhere between five to seven). Keep in mind that letting the cheese stay in the fridge for more than eight hours might deteriorate the texture even further.
- Leave it in cold or lukewarm water. The water conducts heat faster than the air therefore this is a convenient way to fasten the process. You can put the water with the thawing cheese in the fridge if you have a little bit more time.
- Drop it frozen. If you are short in time and you are using the cheese in a cooked dish, you can put the frozen Ricotta in and stir until it thaws.
Tips when thawing the Ricotta Cheese:
· Never thaw ricotta on the counter at a room temperature, as, being a fresh milk product, it contains numerous spoilage-bacteria and leaving it out of the fridge can put the cheese at risk of bacterial contamination.
· Always thaw exactly the amount of cheese you need for the dish. The already defrosted Ricotta Cheese can be left in the fridge for up to three days. Refreezing the Ricotta is not a good idea, as it will completely ruin the texture and flavor of the cheese.
· After thawing the Ricotta the water from the melted ice will be separated from the cheese. Depending on the dish, you can choose whether to stir with a spoon and mix them together or get rid of the liquid.
How To Use Thawed Ricotta?
At this point you are probably wondering what we refer to as a “cooked dish” when we talked about the usage of previously frozen Ricotta Cheese. To make it clearer and more tangible, you can find below some ideas of cooked dishes you can use the cheese taken out of the fridge.
Once you have put in the effort to freeze the Ricotta, you should have a clear plan on how to use the whole amount within the next two months to avoid wasting it. Bookmark this article so you can have a look for inspiration when you run out of ideas.
· Ricotta is commonly used in savory dishes, including pasta, calzone, Stromboli, pizza, manicotti, mac & cheese, lasagna, and ravioli. It can be used both previously frozen and fresh. Once you mix it with eggs and parmesan cheese you cannot really tell whether it was fresh or thawed prior to cooking.
· Egg and cheese sandwich – sometimes in the morning we don’t possess the energy to prepare something complicated. How about using the leftover ricotta cheese that you defrosted a few hours back for an easy to make sandwich? Don’t forget to add some veggies to the toast to fulfill the nutritional needs for the day and additional fresh flavor.
· Cakes and Baked goods are also dishes that would allow the usage of thawed Ricotta. Cheesecakes and cookies with a Ricotta filling are great options to choose. Moreover, compared to other dishes of ricotta, the cookies have a better shelf life.
Ricotta Cheese is one of the most commonly used cheeses not only in Italy but now all around the world. And there is a solid reason for that. The cheese is very distinguishable, flavorful and light and it can be consumed both directly or used in dishes. This article comes to show that it is not necessary to throw away the leftovers of the cheese.
If you follow the steps for freezing and thawing the cheese in the correct way, you will be convinced that the defrosted Ricotta can be in fact as good as a fresh one.
After all, due to being highly perishable, the cheese often ends up in the garbage and throwing any kind of food away is a habit all of us must strive to avoid.