Ricotta 101 | Creative Ways to Enjoy Ricotta

Authors: Ryer Leveille, Dietetic Intern and Heidi Harkopf, MS, RD
What is ricotta?

Ricotta belongs to the family of fresh cheeses which includes cottage cheese and mozzarella. Fresh cheeses don’t undergo the aging process that’s required to ripen the flavor of other cheeses (cheddar, Romano, or blue cheese, for example).

Ricotta, which translates to “recooked”, was traditionally made from the whey byproduct of cheese making. Because it is made using whey, the leftover liquid from cheese making, it is thought that ricotta has its origins as a way to maximize food use. After the curds are separated for other cheese making, the whey left behind is gently reheated which causes the remaining protein to further bind together to form the grains of ricotta. However, in current times, Ricotta is made directly from milk, vs being a secondary product from cheese making.

Does ricotta fit into a healthy eating pattern?

American’s are falling short on dairy recommendations and ricotta cheese can be a delicious addition to help fill that gap. It provides important bone building nutrients such as calcium and protein, as well as immune boosting selenium and B12. And considering how versatile ricotta is in the kitchen, it is the perfect complement to an inclusive plant-based diet as outlined by Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which includes a vegetarian and Mediterranean eating plan.

Creative ways to use ricotta

When you think of ricotta cheese, your mind may first go to lasagna. However, it is an incredibly versatile cheese that can be used in a variety of entrées, desserts, breakfast foods, appetizers, and more.

Below we share several ways you can integrate ricotta into your culinary creations and everyday life:

Egg dishes

From quiches to frittatas, a dollop of ricotta is a great way to liven up egg dishes! And next time you scramble your eggs, stir in a tablespoon of ricotta, after removing the eggs from the heat, for a creamy addition.

Breakfast

Ricotta toast is a great way to have some fun with your morning routine and utilize some of the odds and ends you have around the kitchen. Enjoy a simple topping of ricotta with honey and a slice of apple, or experiment with cinnamon and chopped walnuts. And a breakfast bowl made by topping a scoop of ricotta with fruit and chopped pistachios will provide you with plenty of protein power to make it to lunch.

Pizza

For a quick weeknight dinner, enjoy a white pizza made with a no-kneed pizza dough, topped with ricotta and roasted veggies or sauteed spinach. Sprinkle on a bit of mozzarella and enjoy pizza made as quickly as delivery could get it to you.

Baked goods and sweet treats

When used in baking, ricotta can add moisture and tenderness. Consider trying it in muffins or even pancake recipes. Or for an elegant, yet intriguing dessert, serve your guests Balsamic Strawberries with Ricotta Cream.

Dips

Ricotta dip is the way to go if you need something simple, yet delicious, the next time you are entertaining. Add in your favorite seasonings such as roasted garlic, herbs and spices including paprika, basil or thyme and serve with raw vegetables. Or for a sweet dip, mix in maple syrup, cinnamon or cocoa powder and serve with fresh fruit. Or try Cannoli dip for a quick way to get the taste of a cannoli without the work.

Pasta dishes

Ricotta is a great cheese for use in pasta dishes of all types, not just lasagna, ravioli, and stuffed shells. It can be a creative addition to mac and cheese or can be the base of a creamy one pot dish. Or just simply top your favorite pasta dish with a tablespoon of ricotta for a high protein, creamy addition. There is hardly a pasta dish that a dollop of ricotta won’t complement.

Share your favorite ways to enjoy ricotta with us on social media @NewEnglandDairy.

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