A wide variety of recipes call for sometimes rare and exotic ingredients which you don’t usually use or drop in your shopping basket. What happens when you buy a large quantity of a speciality ingredient and you know you’re not going to use it all in the recipe? Storage comes to mind but it’s not always as simple as closing the container and putting in the fridge. One case of such a problem is ricotta cheese which isn’t exactly a staple in many recipes. If you find yourself with more ricotta cheese than you need immediately you might consider freezing it. Before we answer the question of whether or not it can be frozen let’s define ricotta cheese.
What Is Ricotta Cheese?
Ricotta is a fresh cheese created from the cow’s whole or skim milk. It has a faintly sweet flavour and a smooth texture. As compared to cottage cheese, ricotta is smoother. Ricotta is favoured by many for its smooth creamy and slightly salty taste. Ricotta is a very versatile cheese working well in baked dishes, pies, pasta salads and desserts. It’s texture is also widely revered for its smoothness. As if that wasn’t enough ricotta cheese is also considered a healthy cheese being low in fat and high in protein. Ricotta cheese, like all types of cheese, is a great source of calcium and provides a range of other essential nutrients including vitamin A, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B12, Vitamin K, iodine, phosphorus, selenium and zinc. Ricotta, meaning cooked twice in Italian, is an Italian whey cheese made from sheep, cow, goat, or Italian water buffalo milk whey left over from the production of other cheeses.
Can You Freeze Ricotta Cheese?
The good news is that as natural cheese ricotta can be frozen safely as to extend its shelf life. Ricotta cheese’s taste will not change once you freeze it. Unfortunately, freezing ricotta is sure to alter its texture. The texture is not permanently lost and can be regained if you follow specific rules when freezing and thawing it. It is advisable that if you have spare ricotta and you’re making a cooked or baked dish, you should rather make extra and store the dish. However, if this is not applicable or you are intent on storing the ricotta there are a few things you should know.
Ricotta cheese is best stored for a duration not longer than three months though there are some conditions to this. Ricotta cheese when frozen will remain safe to eat for longer than three months. The method of storage is an important condition for this and we will discuss that next. The 3-month duration is for best quality only – ricotta cheese that has been kept constantly frozen will keep safe indefinitely. If the package is unopened you can safely place the ricotta cheese in the freezer as is. However, if the packaged has been opened and you are using leftover cheese some precautions will have to be taken to give you the best results.
The storage of ricotta cheese is very important to its ability to be frozen and how useful it is after being frozen. Before freezing ricotta cheese it is advisable to stir it through with a spoon, this will help the cheese to freeze more evenly. It is also recommended to press down on the cheese with paper towels to drain excess moisture. This step isn’t important in the freezing process of ricotta but it will become very important when thawing the cheese for use. When placing a previously opened package of ricotta cheese in the freezer, the best thing to do is to wrap it in plastic or cling wrap. If you intend to store the cheese for longer than a month or are not sure how long you will keep it in there it is a great idea to double wrap it in plastic. Finally, it is best to divide the ricotta into sizes suitable for future usage individually. So dividing a large amount of ricotta into many smaller sized portions for freezing is the best idea as refreezing ricotta cheese is not advisable.
Freezing ricotta cheese is hard enough but thawing it also comes with important rules. Firstly it is best to thaw ricotta cheese in the fridge. Thawing it at room temperature is not advisable as this encourages bacterial growth and changes the taste of the cheese. However, thawing food in the refrigerator is incredibly slow and needs to be done ahead of time. Thawing it in water may prove faster. Cold water is preferable but lukewarm water may suffice. Once the cheese is thawed it is best to stir the cheese to reconstitute its original texture. The choice between the options will depend on how soon you need to use the cheese and what you want to use it for. If you intend to use the ricotta in a cooked dish then you are also welcome to simply drop the ricotta cheese into the dish frozen. The same way you would add fresh ricotta cheese in the dish.
The most important consideration when freezing ricotta is of course how the cheese will be used when it is thawed. Granted this is not always known at the time of freezing the cheese so it’s not always easy to consider. That said there are many ways that frozen and thawed ricotta cheese can be used. Ricotta is most often used in baked pasta dishes and frozen ricotta works very well in these. Lasagna, ravioli, maccaroni and cheese or good examples of this. Other oven based dishes such as pizza and calzone also do very with frozen and thawed ricotta cheese. Cakes and baked goods also do very well with ricotta cheese that was previously frozen. Cheesecakes and spinach and ricotta rolls make very good use of frozen and thawed ricotta. For those who like them, you can use frozen and thawed ricotta comfortably in pancakes.
In conclusion, ricotta cheese can successfully be frozen and thawed for reuse. Precautions need to be taken at the time of freezing it as well as the time of thawing it to ensure that the cheese maintains its flavour and to mitigate the damage to its texture. It is best to thaw it in the refrigerator or cold water. Frozen and thawed ricotta is best used in cooked and baked dishes.