Ricotta is made from sheep, cow or goat milk whey that is left from the production of cheese. It is made by coagulating the proteins that remain after the casein has been used to make cheese. Notably, Italian ricotta is made from the whey of sheep, cow, goat, or buffalo milk. The American product is almost always made of cow's milk whey. Both types are low in fat and sodium but the Italian version is naturally sweet. The American variety is a little saltier and moister. It is often salted, baked or smoked to prolong its shelf life.
It does not undergo a ripening or an ageing process to further develop the flavor and is therefore considered as a fresh cheese, but due to this it has a very short shelf life. It is soft and creamy and does not contain salt which gives it a very light and sweet flavor with a light fluffy texture.
Ricotta can very easily be prepared at home as it only requires few ingredients; milk, vinegar, salt and cream.
Ricotta is used to make many Italian dishes and bakery products. It is used in pizzas, cheesecakes, lasagna, pasta and ravioli. Even a certain kind of mayonnaise is made from ricotta cheese. It is also used instead of paneer to make an Indian sweet called ras malai.
Ricotta cheese is often used in sweet and savoury dishes. Most popularly used as a stuffing for ravioli and also used in certain pastries.
It is used extensively in desserts like cheesecakes, cookies. Its texture allows it to alternate as a dip as well as a sauce.
Ricotta cheese can be partnered well with berries, tangerines, sweet rolls, crusty breads, melons, bagels, chips and some light wines as well.
Ricotta cheese has vitamin A, riboflavin and vitamin B12. It also has calcium that helps build strong bones by retaining their strength and density. Ricotta cheese has more than 5 times the calcium found in regular cottage cheese. It contains omega fatty acids that are crucial to our health. But consuming too much of ricotta should be avoided because it is high in calories and fat, and could alter the cholesterol levels.