Ricotta cheese is a traditional Italian cheese, similar to cottage cheese but made from the whey left over from making other cheeses. The thin whey is left to continue to ferment in whatever starter was used to make the initial cheese; the additional fermentation increases the acidity of the whey, and when the acidic whey is heated, the remaining proteins precipitate into very fine curds. The name ricotta means “recooked,” and refers to this second round of fermentation and heating. It’s a way to squeeze more of the food value out of the milk, and the resulting cheese is high in protein and low in fat.
Ricotta has a different texture and taste than cottage cheese, with finer and drier curds. It works well in both sweet dishes and savory ones, and in Italian cooking is used in desserts as well as main courses.
Ricotta is higher in calcium and lower in sodium than cottage cheese. Even whole-milk ricotta cheese is relatively low in fat, so it’s not necessary to choose a low-fat version.Nutritional Facts
One-half cup of part-skim ricotta cheese provides 171 calories, 6.4 g carbohydrate, 14.1 g protein, 9.8 g fat, 0 g dietary fiber, 38 mg cholesterol, 536 IU vitamin A, 16 mcg folic acid, 155 mg potassium, 155 mg sodium, 226 mg phosphorus, 337 mg calcium, 18 mg magnesium, and 1.66 mg zinc.