Although it is a dairy product, Ricotta cannot be defined a “cheese” but simply a “non-cheese dairy product”: to produce it, the whey that is released from the curd and not milk, as in the case of cheese, is used. More in particular, Ricotta is defined a semi-solid, non-aged, dairy product, obtained by thermal acid coagulation of milk whey, possibly with the addition of milk and/or milk cream. Its name comes from the Latin word “recoctus”, cooked twice, as the proteins in the whey, after having undergone a first heating in the phase of production of the cheese, are heated a second time in the process to obtain the Ricotta. In the past, the production of Ricotta represented the best way of ensuring that the quantity of milk produced during the day was used up without any waste, but its consumption was limited to the same day or to the next two days at the most. Today, the new and more modern techniques allow improved storability of Ricotta, reducing the risks of microbial contamination to a minimum.
Ricotta – The heart of the process that will decide the quality and yield of transformation of Ricotta is represented by the initial phase of thermal denaturing and the consequent coagulation of the denatured proteins, during which the whey is heated to a temperature of between 85 and 94°C, then, after the separation of the liquid phase from the solid phase, the coagulation is extracted by physical processes (removal of coagulation and drainage) and distributed in special perforated containers, The Ricotta obtained this way, characterized by a high level of humidity, is particularly sensitive to any chemical-physical alterations and as a consequence its storability is limited to 3-5 days. To obtain a “long life” Ricotta, modern industrial technologies use a final phase of homogenization of the product, immediately followed by packaging at temperatures of over 80° C ; in this way, can have a commercial life of not less than 30 days.
Fresh cow’s ricotta is characterized by a soft, white and grainy paste, without a rind, with a mild flavour and smell typical of milk; it is consumed as is, but its greatest use is in cooking, in particular in the production of the typical Italian filled pastas: Tortellini, Tortelli etc.
It is produced throughout Italy and sheep in particular in Sardinia, Sicily, Basilicata, Abruzzo, Puglia, Campania and Calabria and, if salted or baked, it is used grated on dry pasta, in Sicilian recipes such as pasta alla Norma. The traditional Abruzzo recipe of pecorara rings, used the use of dried ricotta. In fact it was a recipe that shepherds prepare during transhumance when it was not possible to find fresh products. In the Waldensian valleys, in the province of Turin, a particular type of ricotta seasoned in hay is called saras del fen. Smoked ricotta is also produced: in upper Veneto and in particular in the province of Belluno, but also in other areas of north east Italy.