All your questions about freezing ricotta cheese are answered here. Learn the best way to freeze ricotta and find recipes that use up leftover ricotta. You'll also learn how long ricotta cheese lasts and the best substitutes for ricotta cheese.
Ricotta is an Italian cheese. Although it's mostly thought of as a creamy, fresh cheese that's used in recipes like lasagna, there are actually several different types of ricotta.
Some types of Italian ricotta are soft and spreadable and others are firm and can be sliced.
The flavor is similar to the flavor of cream - mild and milky with just a slightly sweet taste. Ricotta is used in familiar recipes and dishes like lasagna, baked ziti, and stuffed shells. It's also used in desserts like cheesecake and cannoli.
Not all recipes use up an entire container of ricotta, so it's not unusual to have leftover ricotta cheese. Leaving many home cooks to wonder...Can you freeze ricotta cheese?
How It's Made
Traditional ricotta is made from whey. Whey is the liquid that is pressed out of cheese curds when cheese is made. Instead of discarding the whey, Italian cheesemakers discovered they could re-heat it and the whey would thicken into curds. This is how ricotta (which means recooked in Italian) got its name.
Usually, ricotta is made from either cow's milk or sheep milk. Occasionally goat's milk and in a few parts of Italy that make buffalo mozzarella, it's made from buffalo milk.
These days, many brands of ricotta are made by combining whey with whole milk or cream. You can even make a relatively simple version of homemade ricotta cheese using whole milk and vinegar or lemon juice.
Types of Ricotta
In Italy, you might find locally made ricotta that varies in flavor and texture depending on where it is made. Some types of Italian ricotta are soft and spreadable and others are firm and can be sliced.
In an American grocery store, you're most likely to only find commercially made ricotta that is sold in small tubs and meant for recipes like lasagna. Look a little harder in cheese shops and speciality stores and you might find other types of ricotta, too.
Fresh Ricotta: This is a very creamy cheese and can be scooped with a spoon. This is typically the type of ricotta that people want to freeze for future use. Fresh ricotta is sold in a tub and most often used as a main ingredient in lasagna and other types of baked pasta. It can also be used in desserts. Some commercially made brands have a grainy texture, which isn't ideal. Look for brands that are fluffy, creamy and smooth.
Basket Ricotta: Soft, pillowy curds are scooped into baskets to drain, which shapes the ricotta into a small dome. One example is Bellwether Farm's sheep milk basket ricotta.
Salted: Ricotta Salata is made from sheep's milk curd that has been salted and pressed and then aged for about 3 months. It has a tender but firm and sliceable texture. It's used for snacking or grating over salad or pasta.
Smoked Ricotta: Less common is smoked ricotta, or ricotta affumicata. This type of semi-firm smoked ricotta is basically ricotta salata that has been cold smoked. A unique version of smoked ricotta with a soft, creamy texture is sold by Artisanal cheesemakers like Crooked Face Creamery.
Freezing Process and Storage
Fresh Ricotta: This type of ricotta can be frozen for 1 to 3 months, but the texture will change. Ideally, use fresh ricotta up so that you don't have to freeze it. After being frozen and defrosted, ricotta is less fluffy and smooth and can become watery and grainy.
This is because ricotta cheese has a high water content, and the water separates when frozen.
Vigorously stirring frozen and defrosted ricotta is the best way to bring back the creamy consistency, however it might still be slightly grainy. Even so, frozen and defrosted ricotta should work fine in baked recipes, like lasagna and cakes.
Fresh ricotta can simply be frozen in the original packaging, which is usually a plastic tub. You can also freeze fresh ricotta in a freezer-safe glass glass jar or airtight container.
Basket or Ricotta Salata: This type of ricotta freezes better than fresh ricotta. Basked molded ricotta or ricotta salata can be wrapped very tightly in several layers of plastic wrap and placed in a freezer bag. Some people like to first use a piece of parchment, so that plastic is not directly touching the cheese.
Slices of basket ricotta or ricotta salata can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
To defrost, put all types of ricotta cheese in the refrigerator overnight.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ricotta
Ricotta is a fresh, un-aged cheese that doesn't last as long as other types of cheese. Most tubs of fresh ricotta will have an expiration date. After opening a container of ricotta, try to use it within a week of opening it. It can stay fresh for slightly longer than that, but not always.
A few signs that ricotta is no longer fresh are the color (mold can give it a pinkish color), odor (rancid-milk smell) and flavor (it will taste sour or bitter).
When dairy products are frozen, fat separation occurs, causing the fat to separate from liquid. This fat separation is what gives ricotta a grainy texture when it's defrosted. Fat separation also means that the watery parts of ricotta form ice crystals. When that ice defrosts, the consistency of ricotta becomes more watery and less creamy.
Fat separation is why it's essential to whip or stir defrosted ricotta to bring back a creamy consistency, although it's sometimes impossible to avoid the grainy texture.
Yes, ricotta does quite well when frozen into recipes, especially when the dish will be baked, such as pasta or casseroles.
You can also freeze desserts with ricotta like cannoli. Check out this article from pantryandlarder.com for detailed instructions about freezing cannoli.
Cottage cheese: Depending on the brand, cottage cheese can taste more tangy than ricotta. However, the high moisture content and creamy (but not overly rich) texture makes its a good substitute for ricotta in baked pasta recipes like Mom's Cottage Cheese Lasagna from Neighborfoodblog.com. Buy small curd cottage cheese to replace ricotta.
Quark: Quark is a fresh dairy product that's a cross between yogurt and cottage cheese.
Creme Fraiche: Creme fraiche is French cultured cream. The cream is thickened either by natural bacteria (unpasteurized cream) or a starter culture (pasteurized cream). It has a higher fat content than ricotta and smoother, richer texture. I use creme fraiche instead of ricotta in my favorite cheesy lasagna recipe.
Mascarpone: Mascarpone is an Italian dairy product made from cream that has been thickened by citric acid. It has a smooth texture and slightly sweet flavor. Mascarpone has a high butterfat content, which makes it richer and thicker than ricotta. It is used in desserts like tiramisu or mixed with fresh herbs for a savory topping for bread or pasta.
Fromage blanc: A spreadable whole milk cheese with a dense, whipped texture similar to cream cheese.
Fresh ricotta can be used in all sorts of different dishes and recipes. All of these recipes provide delicious ways to use up ricotta.
- Turkey ricotta meatballs
- Pork and ricotta meatballs
- Vesuvio pizza
- Lemon ricotta pancakes, by Baker by Nature
- Easy baked spaghetti, by Pip & Ebby
- Whole wheat raspberry ricotta scones, by Smitten Kitchen
- Lemon ricotta pasta, by Lemon & Zest
Easy Recipes for Dairy Lovers
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