Exploring ricotta: Ricotta is Italy’s answer to cottage cheese and best eaten ‘fresh, fresh, fresh!’ According to experts (the Italians), ricotta cheese will deteriorate and become acid quickly because of the amount of water it contains compared to harder cheeses that seem to want last for a very long time.
Ricotta is packed full of nutrition. It’s a great source of protein and pound for pound (gram for gram) contains more than meat or other cheeses. Fat content can vary depending on how your ricotta is produced. If produced with pure cows milk or cream this increases the yield and results in a very rich and creamy cheese. Therefore, the fat content will depend on the amount of milk or cream used.
How to buy ricotta cheese
People can get very fussy over their ricotta and the best are those with a fat content that doesn’t exceed 10 to 12%. There is also an important relationship between fat and protein content. The best ricotta is said to around 14 grams of protein to 12 fat. Most importantly the main factors for recognising a good ricotta lies in its freshness, texture, type and quantity of milk.
- Buy it as fresh as possible – if you can get it direct from the farm as they do here, that is as fresh as fresh can get
- Eat it immediately when opened, although typically ricotta, when refrigerated, ricotta will last for up to 15 days
The texture is a good indication of quality. Good ricotta is pure white, wet (not sticky) and is a solid mass of tiny unsalted grains. Although ricotta can often seem gritty in your mouth, ricotta cheese should become creamy, losing it’s gritty texture immediately. A creamy consistency is very difficult to achieve so if your local producer consistently creates creamy ricotta, then give us their address and we will ‘spread’ the word. Luckily for us all, the cheese industry has perfected the art and so it’s not difficult to find a good ricotta in your local supermarket.
Ricotta can be made using goat, sheep or cows milk. Goat’s cheese ricotta , is not as easy to find as sheeps milk ricotta called ‘salata moliterna’ and a sheeps ricotta cheese tends to have a richer aroma which could be mistaken for it being on it’s way out. Cows milk ricotta know as ‘piemontese’, is the lowest in fat and has a very delicate milky aroma.
How to use ricotta cheese
Ricotta is as versatile as those cream cheeses that we have all become familiar with and although Philadelphia cream cheese does, in our opinion, result in the best cheesecakes, ricotta is a superb sustitute and the Italians do many variation of a cheesecake using ricotta. They also use ricotta as a substitute for butter in their baking, whip it up in smoothies, dot it into baked pasta dishes and over pizza. But today we’re going to show you how to reform your pot of ricotta to create delicious antipasto.
For this you will need the best and freshest ricotta cheese that you can find.
Ingredients for Ricotta with arugula
- 2 oz of fresh ricotta per person
- 2 – 3 arugula (rocket) leaves, washed, dried and roughly chopped
- Mix the ingredients together in a mixing bowl
- Line a suitably sized containers with clingfilm and pack the mixture into each one
- Refrigerate for up to 30 minutes before serving