Ricotta cheese is a fresh cheese with creamy, fine textured curds that is very commonly used in many types of recipes, from savory pasta dishes to decadent cheesecakes. The name “ricotta” translates to “recooked.” The cheese gets its name because it is made with the whey leftover from other cheesemaking processes, which is recooked with an acid until the proteins left in the whey come together and fine curds form. It is most similar to cottage cheese, which has larger curds but can be used in similar ways to ricotta.
Ricotta cheese is very slightly sweet and has a pleasant, fresh cream flavor. It can be produced with cow, sheep or goat’s milk, but is most commonly made with cow’s milk (at least, in the US), and is available with with various fat contents. A full-fat ricotta contains only about 11-13% and it tends to be significantly creamier than fat free versions, which can become grainy in texture. Its slightly bland flavor is what makes it such a versatile ingredient, because it adds richness to a dish while adding a blank canvas on which to feature other flavors.