Ricotta – Everyone’s Favorite Creamy Delight 🙂
I have already told you about my Italian fairytale, or better to say my romantic getaway to Italy that ended up with my living in Tuscany for three unforgettable months.
As I mentioned then, that was a moment I met the second love of my life (just to be clear – my hubby is the first one, lol) – ricotta cheese.
After almost a decade of my love affair with ricotta cheese, I can inform you that I have passed my love to all my family members, friends, and neighbors and therefore given a small contribution to raising its popularity here in the USA.
My boys, including my husband, love the ricotta cheese in their lasagna but eat it fresh as well and it has become the unreplaceable part of almost every meal we have.
We often buy it, but I also make my own ricotta cheese as in this way I am certain that all the ingredients are fresh and healthy. When we are out of it, a revolution occurs, and I have therefore come up with some interesting ricotta cheese substitutes that get us through such days.
I better return to the topic I am covering in this article, as I can go on and on about ricotta cheese – but I am not sure you all want to hear that. So, as I already told you I have to have ricotta in my home, so I either buy it in hips or make it myself – in hips of course.
As a result, I always have quite a lot of ricotta to store, and although I usually store it in my refrigerator, sometimes we do not get around to eat it all in a week (that is how long it can be safely stored in the fridge).
So, I began wondering – Can you freeze ricotta cheese without ruining it?
The answer is yes, but keep reading on to find out more!
What Is Ricotta Cheese?
If you follow my blog on a daily basis, you probably know that I have already talked about this, so here and now I will only shortly recapitulate for those who have not read that.
Ricotta cheese is a fresh unripened cheese originally made in Italy. It is made from whey – a residue left over when some other cheeses, such as mozzarella, are made.
The whey is recooked (therefore the name ricotta – from the Italian/Latin word recocta which translates to recooked). It can be made from both whole and skimmed milk depending on how fatty you prefer it, I for one mind my calorie intake and thus recommend the low-fat version. (The whole milk ricotta will be creamier, however.)
The end product should be creamy, smooth and thick and have a mild, faintly sweet flavor to it.
Due to low salt content, it can be used in sweet dishes as well, and I use it too for my boys’ favorite dessert – the blueberry cheesecake.
Making My Own Ricotta: The Best Recipe for Home-Made Ricotta Cheese
Although in order to make traditional ricotta cheese one would need the whey leftover from cheese making, you can also get it by draining the yogurt or milk kefir. In this way, you will prepare a low-fat ricotta cheese that may not be as creamy or sweet as the one made from whole milk, but will still taste great believe me!
You will need the following ingredients:
- 1 gallon of fresh whey
- ВЅ gallon of milk (whole or skimmed)
- Вј cup of distilled white vinegar
- Non-iodized salt to the taste
You will also need:
- Double boiler (if you do not own one a pot will do just fine too)
- Coffee filter
- Extra Tip: Use the whey within two hours of straining!
The Step By Step Preparation Process:
- Mix the milk and whey in a pot or a double boiler.
- Carefully heat the mixture over medium heat until it reaches 195В°F. Stir the mixture constantly as to prevent scorching (using a double boiler helps avoid scorching too). Do not let the whey boil as it can be very messy!!
- Once the milk and whey are heated to the desired temperature, remove them from the heat and add the vinegar. Stir the content gently, and you will notice it starting to curdle.
- Line a colander with a coffee filter and place it in your sink. Use a spoon to drain away the excess whey (you can also carefully pour the mixture into the colander).
- Leave the ricotta cheese in the colander for at least one hour. The longer you drain it, the firmer it will become.
- Once you are satisfied with its texture and consistency, add salt to your taste and mix it well in.
- Store ricotta in a ricotta basket or a storage container that will allow the remaining whey to drain. In this way, your ricotta cheese will not become soggy. You can leave it refrigerated and use it for up to one week.
- Extra Tip: You can simply double the ingredients for double amount of the ricotta cheese!
The Question of the Day: Can You Freeze Ricotta Cheese?
The process of making ricotta is not that hard or troublesome but it still takes time and effort, and we moms know how time can be precious and better spent with our kids! For this reason, maybe it is better to make more ricotta cheese at once and then store it and use it for the whole month.
As you can see from my recipe, freshly-made ricotta can last only a week in your fridge, so what could you do to store it for longer? Freeze it, of course. That is an obvious solution, but the real question is can you freeze ricotta cheese without spoiling its taste or texture.
The good news is that just like any natural cheese ricotta can be frozen safely as to extend its shelf life. Another great news is that its taste will not change once you freeze it. The bad news is that freezing ricotta is sure to alter its texture.
Namely, as ricotta is a soft cheese with quite high moisture content, it will become rather icy once you freeze it. That icy crystals are the main culprits for it changing the texture when thawed as they damage the natural structure of the ricotta cheese.
As a result, the whey and curds become separated, and the cheese starts to crumble and gets drier than before the freezing. If you stir it while it thaws, you can somewhat salvage the texture, but it will never be exactly the same as before you froze it.
The change of texture will most probably reflect on your recipes with ricotta cheese as well, so rather than using it as it is, or as a main ingredient, you can try and mask its crumbly texture by using it only as a side ingredient for your favorite ricotta-infused dishes.
Related: Can You Freeze Brie Cheese? The Burning Question, Answered!
How to Freeze the Riccota Cheese
- If you buy ricotta cheese in your supermarket, it will come in a plastic container you can use to freeze it as well, especially if you have not opened the package yet. If you did open it and had used some cheese already, you can put the package into another airtight container or a freezer bag prior to freezing it for better results.
- I have found that stirring the ricotta cheese immediately before you put it in a freezer will make it freeze more evenly, just like a home-made ice-cream. Also, press the cheese down with a stack of kitchen paper towels as to drain the excess whey and avoid unnecessary ice crystals from forming.
- If you prefer storing the ricotta cheese in the freezer bags, you should first wrap the ricotta in a plastic wrap and then put it in the bag, press the air out and seal it. It would be a good idea to divide the cheese into small portions as in this way you will be able to defrost only the amount you need in your recipe and leave the rest frozen for future use.
- I recommend holding on to this technique when using the airtight plastic containers too. So, once again divide the ricotta cheese into portions by using the plastic wrap and then pack the wrapped packages separately inside an airtight container you have chosen for this purpose.
- No matter what technique you choose, you should not keep ricotta in a freezer for more than two months. It is best to mark the date of freezing on the container or the freezer bag in order to be certain of the expiration date.
You May Need: A Freezer Container
How to Thaw the Frozen Ricotta Cheese
- Do not just take out the ricotta cheese and leave it on a kitchen counter to defrost as it is very prone to bacteria growth. The right way to defrost your frozen ricotta cheese, although much slower, is to place it in your refrigerator.
- Once it softens a bit, use a spoon to stir it from time to time as to try and reconstruct the whey and curd connection. Once thawed, your ricotta cheese needs to be kept in the refrigerator as well and used within the two following days. You must never refreeze it!
What Can You Use the Once-Frozen Ricotta Cheese for? My Favorite Recipe
The thawed cheese will become a bit grainy and will not be as good for some recipes as once it has been fresh, but in some recipes, it will make little or no difference.
For example, I use my thawed ricotta cheese to make lasagna as once you mix it with eggs and parmesan cheese you cannot really tell whether it was fresh or thawed prior to cooking.
The recipe is quite simple too, make the mixture I have already mentioned, add seasonings to your liking (oregano, garlic..), and then take out your lasagna pan, place one layer of uncooked lasagna noodles, and spread the cheese mixture over it.
Continue layering until you spend the ingredients. Bake it and enjoy it! 🙂
There are numerous other sweet and sour dishes you can use the thawed ricotta cheese for, but that is not our topic today. You can leave your suggestions in the comments though, as I am always searching for some good recipes to add to my never-ending collection.
I have answered the question can you freeze ricotta cheese and, as you can all see, the answer is yes, but with some sacrifices made.
The greatest sacrifice is the texture, but it is better to take it than to waste your leftover ricotta cheese, don’t you think so too?
After all, ricotta cheese goes bad very quickly, and I am sure that you have a lot of it left most of the time; I know I do. It is therefore good to know that there is a way to extend the life of your leftover ricotta instead of throwing it away. Mission accomplished.