Ricotta Cheese

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!  

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9 Comments on “Ricotta Cheese”

  1. September 2, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    I always make my own ricotta! I usually use lemon juice as my acid because if it leaves a little flavor in the cheese, it’ll still go with pretty much anything I want to cook. 🙂 And ricotta is a great way to use up milk if it’s about to taste not-so-fresh anymore. It also makes for a very light, yummy cheesecake.

    • September 2, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

      Cool! Do you have a favorite cheesecake recipe?

  2. September 5, 2012 at 8:01 am #

    Wasn’t it really fun to make your own ricotta? I have made it and can say there is nothing better than smearing some warm, freshly made ricotta on a piece of crusty bread and then drizzled with honey. The very best. Professor Fankhauser is one interesting man we all need to know about and share his experiences with friends. Wonderful mention.

    • September 5, 2012 at 8:05 am #

      You’re right, Teresa – it is fun to make ricotta. I like the idea of drizzling it with honey – I always seem to take the salt and pepper savory route.
      Glad you enjoyed Professor Fankhauser – aren’t those Freedom Ride photos amazing?

  3. September 13, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    I just started making fresh ricotta, and I will never go back! I made mine with buttermilk, but I would like to try the lemon, too.

    • September 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

      Cool! I’ve made ricotta with buttermilk, too. It makes a nice rich cheese. Have you tried making other cheeses?

  4. October 5, 2013 at 7:53 am #

    MixerUpper:
    Thanks for acknowledging that many of the “ricotta” recipes these days are not true ricotta. They would more correctly be classified as paneer. And thank you for mentioning my page on ricotta. Brava.
    I hope you try making “true” cheese with inoculated milk and rennet. The flavor is so much richer than generally available in American groceries.

    • October 5, 2013 at 10:06 am #

      Hi David!

      Thank you for putting together such wonderful, informative information! Many people are appreciative of your page. I have not yet tried making “true” cheese – I really want to, but just don’t seem to find the time. What do you recommend as a “starter” cheese?

      Best, Alison

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