Ricotta…Whey Too Good

Mention ricotta cheese and the first thing that comes to mind is probably a classic Italian lasagna with gooey, warm ricotta layered and ready to eat. But this product works well in many desserts as well as the classic savory dishes. Ricotta is a light-textured, snowy white cheese with a rich but mild, slightly sweet flavor. It is naturally low in salt and low fat (typically around 5%). The taste and texture are perfect for cannoli, cheesecake, manicotti and lasagna.

Technically, ricotta is not a cheese at all, but a by-product. It’s name literally means cooked again, referring to the process by which it is made. It was born of thrift, the practical solution to the unwanted whey produced in cheese making. Most Italian ricottas are made from the whey drained off while making mozzarella or provolone cheese. In the United States, ricottas are usually made with a combination of whey and whole or skim milk. Forty years ago, ricotta was something of an exotic product in the U.S., used in mysterious Italian dishes. In 1967 a Professor of Food Science predicted that “the consumption curve for ricotta cheese is in the beginning stages of a climb to a high peak.” Since then, ricotta cheese consumption is up 243% and sill rising.

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