Delicious and incredibly versatile ricotta cheese. Learn how to use it effectively in your recipes

Do you love ricotta? But you don’t really know where it came from and how to properly work with it so that you can enjoy it in a variety of ways?

Look no further, our article contains all the information you need to enjoy it in as many combinations as possible, both salty and sweet.

You will learn what to replace it with if you run out, or which of the three types of ricotta, where to use it.

What is ricotta?

The process of making ricotta is simple yet unique. While most cheeses are made from whole milk, ricotta is traditionally made by re-boiling the whey left over from making these cheeses.

Ricotta production started as an additional source of income and another source of food for private farmers. But as the cheese became more popular, manufacturers began making this style of cheese from whole milk as well to meet the demand.

Today, you can find ricotta made with whey, but it’s usually mixed with a bit of whole milk or cream to increase the fat content and give the cheese more of a creamier texture.

Delicious cheese full of lumps, which is served in a white bowl.

How is ricotta made?

To make cheese, whey or milk must be acidified either by natural fermentation or by adding an acid such as lemon juice, vinegar, or buttermilk. Bulk producers also commonly add rennets and thickeners. When the acidified whey is heated to near boiling point, the proteins clump together to form curds. Fluffy ricotta is created from the cooled and strained loose curd.

Nutritional values of ricotta (per 100 g)

Calorie Carbohydrates Sugars Fats Saturated fatty acids Proteins Fiber Salt
174 calories 3 g 0.3 g 13 g 8 g 11 g 0 g 84 mg

Types of ricotta and how to use them?

The first type of ricotta is the most affordable, which you normally buy in the store. These cheeses are firm and relatively dense, and their texture is rough and grainy because they were made using machines that break up the soft curds.

These cheeses are best for dishes like hearty lasagne, where their firmness fits between layers of pasta and tomato sauce, but their grainy texture won’t affect the final quality of the dish.

The second type of ricotta is fluffier and is made by smoothing the cheese to remove graininess. These cheeses have a more pleasant texture and no longer have a firm structure.

If you want to use this ricotta, try filling ravioli with it, or use it as a light base for a cannoli filling, to make very light gnocchi, or make toast with ricotta spread.

Ricotta vs. Ricotta Salad

Ricotta, as a fresh cheese, turns into ricotta salata when it is pressed, salted and dried. The texture becomes more crumbly, similar to my feta cheese and with a similar saltiness.

Ricotta and ricotta salata are not interchangeable. While fresh ricotta can be added to dishes by the spoonful and mixed in or as a filling for pasta, ricotta salata is a good choice for finishing dishes, as a sprinkle on a salad or a garnish in a soup.

Pressed piece of ricotta salata cheese.

What to do with ricotta?

Ricotta often appears in recipes for lasagna and other Italian baked dishes.

It is also a common filling ingredient for ravioli, manicotti and other types of stuffed pasta.

It can be used in desserts like mascarpone in cheesecake or mixed with sugar and spices and used to fill Italian cannoli or as cream for a cake.

Ricotta can replace mayonnaise in sandwiches and can be used in omelets and quiches.

Italians often enjoy it spread on toast with a little honey, and it goes particularly well with fresh figs.

Tips for recipes with ricotta

Lemon pasta with ricotta
Ricotta gnocchi
Cannelloni filled with spinach and ricotta
Dried tomato pesto with ricotta
Healthy Zucchini and Herb Ricotta Pancake with Garlic Dip, Tomatoes and a Bit of Goat Cheese
Strawberry cake with ricotta
Raspberry cake with ricotta cream
Ricotta pancakes
Lemon cake with ricotta filling
Baked toast with ricotta and fresh summer fruit
Dishes that can be cooked with ricotta.

What is similar to ricotta cheese?

First of all, you can always reach for cottage cheese, which is similar to ricotta.

Fresh goat cheese is also a good substitute for ricotta. Be careful, however, matured goat cheese will be much denser and more flavorful.

The textures of sour cream and ricotta are of course completely different. But sour cream can stand up in smaller quantities as an alternative to ricotta, especially in recipes where cheese is not the most important ingredient.

Then it’s various cream cheeses, including mascarpone. Queso fresco provides a similar texture and fresh flavor to ricotta.

Cottage cheese served in a bowl with blueberries.
Cottage cheese Source:

Comparison of nutritional values in selected cheeses per 100 g

A type of cheese Calorie Fat Proteins
Ricotta 519 kJ 13 g 11 g
Camembert 1,213 kJ 24 g 18 g
Mascarpone 1,463 kJ 36 g 6 g
Feta cheese 976 kJ 20 g 11 g
Mozzarella 947 kJ 17 g 18 g
Cottage 497 kJ 7 g 11 g

Recipe for homemade ricotta

  • 2 liters of whole milk
  • 250 ml of buttermilk


  • Have a dishtowel large enough to cover the top of the strainer and overhanging the sides
  • Rinse the cloth in water and squeeze out the excess water
  • Fold the tea towel into two layers to completely cover the colander. Place the colander in the sink
  • Pour the whole milk and buttermilk into a saucepan and turn the heat to medium
  • The temperature should not be high to bring the milk to a boil. During the first 5 minutes while the milk is heating, stir frequently to prevent the milk from burning to the bottom of the pot
  • After 5 minutes, test the temperature of the milk with a thermometer. When it is around 35-40 degrees Celsius, stop stirring the milk and let it heat undisturbed. You will start to notice that the milk thickens on the surface. This creates curds (lumps).
  • When the temperature of the milk reaches 80 degrees Celsius, turn off the heat. Let the milk stand for 5 minutes. Do not stir.
  • Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the curds (lumps) from the pot into a colander covered with a thin cloth.
  • Allow the curd to drain in a colander for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Wrap a thin cloth around the curd and tie at the top with a rubber band.
  • Hang the curd bundle so that as much liquid as possible drips from it. Leave the cheese like this for at least 30 minutes
  • Remove the homemade ricotta from the tea towel and place it in a bowl
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate
  • Use the ricotta within three to four days
Instructions on how to make homemade ricotta easily and simply.

How to store ricotta?

Ricotta cheese is perishable and must be refrigerated in a tightly sealed container.

It should have a snow-white color, and yellowing indicates age and deterioration.

Once opened, use within one week.

Ricotta can be safely frozen for up to six months, although texture and flavor may be affected. Thaw it slowly in the refrigerator before use.

Milan & Ondra

We are both fans of good food and enjoy cooking. On this website, we want to inspire you with traditional, but also less common recipes. We will be happy if you try our recipes and let us know how you liked them. Bon appetite! :)