A rich fresh cheese made from skim or whole cow's milk that is slightly grainy but smoother than cottage cheese. It's white, moist and has a slightly sweet flavor. Most Italian ricottas are made from the whey that is drained off while making cheeses such as mozzarella and provolone. Technically not a cheese because it is made from a cheese by-product, Ricotta cheese is most frequently used in Italian cooking. The origins of Ricotta cheese reach back into Latin and Mediterranean history. It is believed to have been created in the Roman countryside as travelers cooked their food in big kettles over open fires. The product was cooked twice to extract the cheese from the buttermilk. The name Ricotta is derived from the Latin word recocta, meaning re-cooked or cooked twice. It became a popular food for serving to important guests. Unrelated to soft ricotta, ricotta salada is made of sheep's milk. The liquid is pressed out and the solids are compacted into rounds, enabling it to be cut with a knife. Its texture is a crumbly but firm.
Season: available year-round
How to select: Good ricotta cheese should be firm, not solid and consist of a mass of fine, moist, delicate grains, neither salted nor ripened.
Matches well with: almonds, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, lemon, nutmeg, nuts pepper, pine nuts, spinach, sugar, tomatoes, vanilla