Ricotta, whether freshly made or bought in stores, is a delicious and soft, milky curd, adding flavor and texture to so many dishes in Italian cuisine.
‘Twice-cooked’ is the literal translation of ricotta, and that is exactly what this cheese is. After cheese is made, the remaining whey is recooked, and soft curds are formed. Ricotta can also be made from whole milk by heating it to approximately ninety-six degrees, then adding some acidity such as lemon juice, to coagulate the milk and make soft curds. It shows up in a great variety of recipes, from appetizers and pasta sauces to pasta fillings and desserts. It represents an Italian gusto, or taste. I use it often in my desserts – in making a cheesecake and filling my cannoli. I especially like it in my ravioli and manicotti stuffing. If you do use ricotta in your recipes, it is essential that it be fresh. If it is watery, drain it for one hour; if compact and dry, use as is.