In the wonderful world of food and cuisine, there are very foods that can claim to be more diverse than pasta. There are over 400 types of pasta in the world and probably more being cooked up as you read this. A renowned favourite amongst these is ravioli which is a filled envelope type of pasta that is usually served with some sort of sauce. Ravioli can be filled with meat, vegetables, herbs, cheese or any combination of these. Ricotta filled ravioli is a traditional favourite. Now if you wanted to emulate this recipe but don’t have access to ricotta what options are available to you? To answer this question fully we have to understand ricotta cheese and its qualities to understand how best to substitute it.
What Is Ricotta Cheese?
Ricotta is a whey cheese of Italian origin. It is a fresh cheese meaning it is neither aged nor matured. It is made from sheep, cow, goat or water buffalo milk that is leftover from the production of other cheeses. The name ricotta means re-cooked in Italian and the name is appropriate as the whey used in this comes from leftover whey from the manufacture of other cheeses. The leftover whey is further fermented for about a day and the acidified whey is then heated to a near-boiling temperature to form a curd. The curd is then drained of excess liquid. Ricotta cheese has a soft and slightly sweet flavour. It has a texture that is similar to cottage cheese. Ricotta bakes and cooks well and in ravioli, it brings a smooth, rich and creamy taste. So what could work as a substitute for ricotta cheese in ravioli?
The substitute for ricotta cheese, in any case, is always cottage cheese. It too is a fresh cheese which has a light and mild flavour that matches ricotta. In addition to this cottage cheese is lower calorie than ricotta so you may find it as the best substitute if you’re looking for a lower-calorie option. Cottage cheese, however, has a few differences with Ricotta. Firstly the texture. Cottage cheese is runnier and less creamy than ricotta cheese. Secondly, you want to be careful to get a small curd cottage cheese rather than a large curd version as the large curd version is very lumpy. Cottage cheese cooks well so it works like a charm.
Another great substitute for ricotta cheese in ravioli is goat cheese. Just remember not all goat cheeses are made equal and what you are looking for is fresh goat cheese. Look for something like chevre which is fresh as opposed to aged or rinded versions. Fresh goat cheese will cook well in ravioli. However, goat cheese will bring a slightly different flavour to your ravioli. Goat cheese will have a nutty flavour to it and is not quite as rich as ricotta cheese.
Sour cream is a bit of an underrated food item. It performs so well in so many circumstances. In cooking, however, sour cream doesn’t always hold up very well and while it does bring rich creamy light bitterness to food it can disappear in some recipes. Ravioli is only boiled for 2 – 3 minutes so your sour cream will hold up well in cooking but may not do well when reheated. Sour cream is easy to find and not expensive at all so it makes a great ricotta cheese substitute in ravioli. The flavour is different from ricotta but you could find it enjoyable.
You also have the option of using cream cheese as a substitute for ricotta cheese in ravioli. Cream cheese is made from a mixture of milk and cream. Compared to ricotta which is made from just milk you will find cream cheese firstly much creamier and secondly has a higher fat content. So you should probably avoid cream cheese if you’re trying to cut down on fat. For those who don’t have such concerns, you can use cream cheese in place of ricotta cheese. It cooks well though you will find the texture less robust than ricotta.
Queso fresco is a cheese of Mexican origin. The name queso fresco means fresh cheese in Spanish. This is a good substitute for ricotta cheese though it isn’t perfect. Queso fresco doesn’t work well as a substitute for ricotta where it is cooked but the short cooking period for ravioli means you could get away with cooking queso fresco in ravioli. Queso fresco is made from a combination of cow and goat milk or cow milk alone. You may find versions with goat milk have an added nutty flavour.
The final entry on our list of ricotta cheese substitutes in ravioli is mascarpone. Mascarpone is an Italian cheese that is also fresh. You may be more familiar with its employment in cheesecakes. Mascarpone is a very flavourful cheese with an extra tart flavour to it. This means you should probably expect it to alter the flavour of your ravioli considerably. Mascarpone cooks well so it will work well in ravioli.
You have a few substitutes to choose from for ricotta cheese in your ravioli. Cottage cheese or fresh goat cheese are your best bets. Marscapone, queso fresco and cream cheese also make good substitutes though you can expect altered flavour and texture. Sour cream will work well for sour cream lovers but may not suit every fan of ravioli.