Ricotta or Ricotta Salata?

We’ve all had Ricotta cheese in lasagna, cannoli and many baked Italian dishes, but do you know the difference between that creamy Ricotta and Ricotta Salata, a more firm, flavorful version available in Cheese/Charcuterie? One cannot be substituted for the other and each need to be used in very different ways.

Ricotta Salata is a semi-firm cheese that could almost be described as an Italian version of Feta. It crumbles the same way when broken or cut and will not melt. It’s made with sheep’s milk whey using the same technique as Ricotta, but where things change is in the aging. Creamy Ricotta is a fresh cheese than can be eaten within hours of making it. Ricotta Salata is pressed, salted and aged for 3 months.

Ricotta in its fresh form has a mild, milky flavor. After salting and aging, Ricotta Salata is nutty, strong and salty. Because its texture and flavor take on new characteristics, don’t make the mistake of using Ricotta Salata the same way as fresh Ricotta.

Here are some better ways to use it:

  • Where you would typically use Feta, try Ricotta Salata instead.
  • Grate over pizza, salad or pasta.
  • Sprinkle over tacos, tostadas or enchiladas. It is very similar to Cotija.
  • Slice and grill directly on the grates. It will get great grill marks, soften slightly, but not melt. Add to vegetables, salad, burgers.
  • Crumble over pasta, rice or grain salads.
  • Use a potato peeler to shave over sautéed vegetables, soup or fresh cut fruit or citrus.
  • Add as an ingredient to quiche, frittata or egg-based casseroles. Grate or crumble and use sparingly. Remember the flavor is very salty and it won’t melt like other cheeses.

Published 3/29/21

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