Did you know that ricotta cheese is not a true cheese? Making cheese requires the coagulation of the milk protein casein. Instead, ricotta is made by coagulating albumin and globulin, milk proteins left over in the whey during the process of making (true) cheese. The word ricotta means “re-cooked” in Italian – a great “whey” to not waste anything. 😉
If you’re interested in the science behind cheese-making, as well as finding great recipes and tips, take a look at Fankhauser’s Cheese Page, an info-filled site from David B. Fankhauser, Ph.D. and Professor of Biology and Chemistry at the University of Cincinnati Clermont College.
Although completely off topic, you may be as fascinated as I was to learn that Professor Fankhauser was one of the original Freedom Riders during the fight for civil rights in the early 60s. Read about his personal experiences and view some one-of-a-kind photos on his special site dedicated to the Freedom Rides.
Okay, now back to ricotta. Even if you’re not so keen on learning all the whys and wherefores of ricotta production, I’m sure you will want to know how simple it is. Here’s my easy formula: milk + acid + heat = ricotta. Try my recipe for a fresh, citrusy ricotta: Homemade Ricotta Cheese on Grilled Bread.
I may use a little more lemon juice than some other ricotta recipes. That’s because I love the infused-citrus taste – delicious when still warm, slathered on grilled bread, and spiked with a sprinkling of fresh lemon zest.
Ricotta is a low-fat, nutritious food that adapts well to a myriad of menus and styles. I love it on top of homemade pizza or baked in the oven with some Greek olives and lemon – nice for dipping pita chips. For a low-calorie, satisfying dessert, take one-half cup of ricotta, then stir in a splash of vanilla and a touch of your favorite sweetener.
Rachael Ray’s non-profit site, Yum-o, features some simple recipes showcasing ricotta that are fun to make with kids. I like the idea that Yum-o empowers kids and their families to develop healthy relationships with food and cooking. If you decide to try your hand at ricotta-making, please drop me a line to let me know how it turns out!