11 Facts About Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta cheese has been gracing Italian tables for centuries. This creamy, white cheese has a delicate flavor and smooth texture that makes it perfect for sweet and savory dishes alike.

While ricotta is a staple in Italian cooking, its versatility has made it popular worldwide. Whether baked into a decadent lasagna, sweetened in pastries, or spread onto crackers, ricotta is beloved for its melt-in-your-mouth creaminess and subtle sweetness.

If you enjoy ricotta, you’ll be fascinated to uncover these 11 interesting facts about this delicious cheese:

ricotta cheese

1. Ricotta Is Not Technically a Cheese

Although we refer to ricotta as a cheese, it is actually made from the whey leftover during cheese production. When this protein-rich whey is heated, the remaining proteins coagulate into curds that are then drained and shaped into that familiar soft, white ricotta.

2. The Name Ricotta Means “Recooked”

The Italian name ricotta literally translates to “recooked” which refers to the reheating of the whey during production. This heating process produces those fluffy, sweet curds that form the ricotta cheese.

3. Ricotta Has Ancient Roman Roots

Ricotta production dates all the way back to ancient Roman times! Both Cato the Elder and Pliny the Elder made references to ricotta in their writings, indicating it was already a common food.

4. Water Buffalo Milk Makes the Best Ricotta

While cow, goat, and sheep milk can all be used to make ricotta, the creamiest, most decadent ricotta comes from the milk of the Italian water buffalo. This is because water buffalo milk contains almost twice the fat of cow’s milk. The resulting ricotta is sublimely rich and sweet.

5. Ricotta Is Lower in Fat and Calories

Unlike many cheeses, ricotta actually contains fewer calories and less fat. On average, ricotta has about one third the calories and half the fat content compared to cheeses like cheddar or mozzarella. This makes ricotta an excellent choice if you’re looking for a healthier cheese option.

6. It’s Packed with Protein

In addition to being low in fat and calories, ricotta cheese actually contains lots of protein – around 8 to 12 grams per half cup serving. Protein plays an important role in building muscle mass and keeping you feeling full.

7. Ricotta Is an Excellent Source of Calcium

Another vital nutrient found in abundance in ricotta cheese is calcium. Calcium is essential for building strong bones and preventing osteoporosis. Just a half-cup of ricotta provides around 30% of your recommended daily value.

8. It’s Naturally Lactose-Free

Many cheese lovers have to avoid delicious dairy treats due to lactose intolerance. The good news is ricotta contains very little lactose since most of it is lost along with the whey. This means even those with lactose intolerance can often enjoy ricotta without issues.

9. Ricotta Has a Short Shelf Life

Unlike hard cheeses that can age for years, ricotta has a relatively short shelf life of just around a week. For the freshest taste and texture, try to eat ricotta within a few days of purchase. However, it can be frozen for longer storage.

10. Ricotta Is Used in Both Sweet and Savory Dishes

From being the creamy filling in your favorite cannoli to the key component in baked ziti, ricotta transcends the savory-sweet divide. Its mild flavor and luscious texture make it the perfect blank canvas that adapts well to any dish.

11. You Can Make Your Own Ricotta at Home

Don’t want to buy ricotta at the store? With just a few simple ingredients like milk, vinegar, and salt, you can easily whip up a batch of homemade ricotta in about 30 minutes. Making your own allows you full control over the ingredients and freshness.


As you can see, humble ricotta cheese has quite an intriguing backstory! This mild, creamy cheese has been produced for thousands of years and adds a special touch to both sweet and savory recipes. With its low fat and high protein content, ricotta offers an extra nutritious alternative to other, more fatty cheeses.

So next time you get a hankering for lasagna or cannoli, appreciate just how amazing ricotta cheese is. Over 2,000 years later, we’re still whipping up batches of this delicious “recooked” cheese!

Ricotta Cheese

FAQ about Ricotta Cheese

1. What is ricotta cheese?

Ricotta is a fresh Italian whey cheese made from sheep, cow, goat, or Italian water buffalo milk whey left over from the production of other cheeses.

2. How is ricotta cheese made?

Ricotta is made by coagulating proteins in whey from previous cheesemaking processes. This is done by acidifying the whey, heating it near boiling, and then separating the curds through a fine cloth.

3. Are there different types of ricotta cheese?

Yes, there are fresh soft ricotta and aged semisoft varieties, including special types like Ricotta di Bufala Campana and Ricotta Romana with protected designations of origin.

4. What are common uses for ricotta cheese in cooking?

Ricotta is widely used in Italian desserts like cannoli and cheesecakes, as well as in savory dishes such as pasta, lasagne, and ravioli. It can also be used as a spread or a sauce thickener.

5. Is ricotta cheese similar to any other cheeses?

Yes, similar cheeses can be found in other countries with local names and variations, such as American ricotta, French recuite or sérac, Maltese irkotta, and Greek anthotyros or manouri.

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