AskDefine | Define ricotta

Dictionary Definition

ricotta n : soft Italian cheese like cottage cheese

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

cooked again

Noun

ricotta

Italian

Noun

ricotta

Verb

ricotta
  1. feminine of ricotto

Extensive Definition

Ricotta (pronounced in Italian) is an Italian whey cheese. Ricotta lit. 'recooked' uses the whey, a limpid, low-fat, nutritious liquid that is a by-product of cheese production.
Ricotta is produced from whey, the liquid separated out from the curds when cheese is made. Most of the milk protein (especially casein) is removed when cheese is made, but some protein remains in the whey, mostly albumin. This remaining protein can be harvested if the whey is first allowed to become more acid by additional fermentation (by letting it sit for 12-24 hours at room temperature). Then the acidified whey is heated to near boiling. The combination of low pH and high temperature causes additional protein to precipitate out, forming a fine curd. Once cooled, the curd is separated by passing though a fine cloth.
After realizing that whey cannot be safely dumped as it creates an environmental hazard , Romano makers discovered that when the protein-rich substance is heated, casein particles fuse and create a curd. This curd, after drainage, is ricotta. Because ricotta is made from whey, rather than milk, it is a whey cheese, not technically a "cheese".
Ricotta is a fresh cheese (as opposed to ripened or aged), grainy and creamy white in appearance, slightly sweet in taste, and contains around 5% fat. In this form, it is somewhat similar in texture to some cottage cheese variants, though considerably lighter. Like many fresh cheeses, it is highly perishable. Ricotta comes in other forms as well, see variants below.

Manufacturing process

Whey from acid-set cheeses cannot produce ricotta, because all of the protein has curdled out in the original cheese. Whey contains little protein, since most of it was removed during the production of the original rennet-set cheese, from which the whey resulted. This makes Ricotta production a low yield process, considering the amount of whey required to produce it. The whey is heated, sometimes with additional acid like vinegar, to curdle out the remaining protein in the whey. The whey is heated to a near boiling temperature, much hotter than during the production of the original cheese, of which the whey is a remnant. This use for the whey has ancient origins and is referred to by Cato the Elder.

Common culinary uses

Like mascarpone in northern-Italian cuisine, ricotta is a favorite component of many Italian desserts, such as cheesecakes and cannoli. There are also kinds of cookies that include ricotta as an ingredient.
In Italian households and dining establishments, ricotta is often beaten smooth and mixed with condiments, such as sugar, cinnamon and occasionally chocolate shavings, and served as a dessert. This basic combination (often with additions such as citrus and pistachios) also features prominently as the filling of the crunchy tubular shell of the Sicilian cannoli, and layered with slices of cake in Palermo's cassata.
Ricotta is also used in dishes other than desserts. Most lasagna recipes, for instance, call for the use of ricotta.
Combined with eggs and cooked grains, then baked firm, ricotta is also a main ingredient in Naples' pastiera, one of Italy's many "Easter pies" (http://www.recipelink.com/mf/2/9542). Regional variations may be sweet or savory.

Variants

While Italian Ricotta is typically made from the whey of sheep or water buffalo milk, the American product is almost always made of cow's milk whey. While both types are low in fat and sodium, the Italian version is nutty, slightly sweet and has dry texture, while the American is blander, sweeter, moister, and therefore more neutral in cooking .
In addition to its fresh, soft form, ricotta is also sold in three preparations which ensure a longer shelf life: salted, baked and smoked. The pressed, salted and dried variety of the cheese is known as ricotta salata. A milky-white hard cheese used for grating or shaving, ricotta salata is sold in wheels, decorated by a delicate basket-weave pattern.
Ricotta infornata is produced by placing a large lump of soft ricotta in the oven until it develops a brown, lightly charred crust, sometimes even until it becomes sandy brown all the way through. Ricotta infornata is popular primarily in Sardinia and Sicily, and is sometimes called ricotta al forno.
Ricotta affumicata is similar to ricotta infornata. It is produced by placing a lump of soft ricotta in a smoker until it develops a grey crust and acquires a charred wood scent, usually of oak or chestnut wood, although in Friuli beech wood is used, with the addition of juniper and herbs.
Ricotta scanta is the process of letting the ricotta go sour in a controlled manner, for about a week, then stirring it every 2-3 days, salting occasionally and allowing the liquid to flow away. After about 100 days the ricotta has the consistency of cream cheese with a distinct, pungent, piquant aroma, much like blue cheese but much richer. Ricotta scanta tastes as it smells, extremely aromatic and piquant with a definite bitter note. Tasted with the tip of the tongue, it has a "hot" sensation.
ricotta in Tosk Albanian: Ricotta
ricotta in Danish: Ricotta
ricotta in German: Ricotta
ricotta in Spanish: Requesón
ricotta in French: Ricotta
ricotta in Italian: Ricotta
ricotta in Hebrew: ריקוטה
ricotta in Dutch: Ricotta
ricotta in Japanese: リコッタ
ricotta in Norwegian: Ricotta
ricotta in Polish: Ricotta
ricotta in Portuguese: Ricotta
ricotta in Romanian: Urdă
ricotta in Russian: Рикотта
ricotta in Sicilian: Ricotta
ricotta in Slovenian: Rikota
ricotta in Swedish: Ricotta
ricotta in Venetian: Puina
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