Ricotta is an Italian cheese made from whey and traditionally a by-product of making other cheeses such as mozzarella and provolone. To make it, the whey is cooked again, giving ricotta its name – the Italian for 'cooked again'. Ricotta has a rich but delicate flavour and a grainy texture. Many regional variations exist, from ricotta Romana, made from sheep's milk (a by-product of pecorino Romano), to ricotta salata, which is dried and salted and used like parmesan to sprinkle over pasta dishes.
Available all year round, ricotta varies tremendously in quality. Use cheese from a specialist producer for the most authentic dishes.
Choose the best
Watch out for gritty, lumpy or wet cheeses. The texture should be firm but not solid, and grainy.
Serve as a dessert cheese, or crumble into warm pasta.
Keep refrigerated and consume by the use-by date.
Often served in Italy with chocolate shavings or cinnamon as a simple dessert, ricotta also forms the base of a range of pasta sauces. Combine with cooked spinach to stuff pancakes and cannelloni. Ricotta can also be used in cheesecakes and in baking.
Try mascarpone or cottage cheese.