How to Store Ricotta Salata

Ricotta Salata is your go-to Italian cheese if you’re seeking something that presents both a superb flavor and a versatile texture that can enhance your dishes.

Different from its creamy counterpart, ricotta, ricotta salata boasts a firmer texture, making it an excellent choice for grating over pastas and salads.

Its mild yet distinct salty tang derives from the whey of sheep’s milk, which, after being pressed and salted, is aged to perfection for a minimum of 90 days.

Ricotta salata stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator

Proper storage is essential to maintain the quality and extend the shelf life of ricotta salata.

Once you bring this delightful cheese into your kitchen, it’s important to know how to keep it in optimal condition.

In your pantry or refrigerator, the right storage not only preserves its flavor and texture but also ensures it’s ready to add a touch of Italian culinary tradition to your meals whenever you need it.

Understanding Ricotta Salata

A block of ricotta salata sits on a clean, white marble cutting board, wrapped in wax paper and stored in a sealed plastic container in a refrigerator

Ricotta Salata is an Italian cheese traditionally made from the whey of sheep’s milk and is known for its firm texture and salty taste. This section will help you discern its characteristics, from traditional production methods to nutritional value.

Origins and Production

Sicily, a herald of rich cheese-making traditions, is the birthplace of Ricotta Salata.

Unlike other cheeses that are made from curds, Ricotta Salata is produced using the whey that remains after the curds are removed during the cheese-making process.

Sheep’s milk whey is heated, pressed, salted, and then aged for at least 90 days to achieve its distinctive flavor and texture.

Ricotta Salata vs. Regular Ricotta

While both cheeses originate from whey, Ricotta Salata differentiates itself through the aging process and added salt.

Unlike its creamy counterpart regular ricotta, Ricotta Salata is firm and dry, making it suitable for slicing or grating. Regular ricotta, in contrast, has a soft, moist consistency ideal for spreading.

Nutritional Profile

Ricotta Salata provides valuable nutrients such as protein and calcium.

A 28-gram serving of Ricotta Salata generally contains:

  • Calories: Approximately 100
  • Protein: About 7 grams
  • Calcium: Roughly 200 milligrams

This cheese is a beneficial addition to your culinary repertoire, giving a boost of nutrients along with flavorful versatility.

Storage Basics

A block of ricotta salata sits on a white porcelain plate in a refrigerator. The cheese is tightly wrapped in plastic wrap to keep it fresh

To ensure your ricotta salata maintains its quality, precise storage conditions are essential. By choosing the appropriate container and creating an ideal storage environment, you can significantly prolong the shelf life of your cheese.

Ideal Storage Conditions

Your ricotta salata thrives in cool conditions, so the fridge is its best friend.

Aim to maintain a steady temperature between 35°F (1.7°C) and 40°F (4.4°C), which is typically towards the back of the fridge.

Consistent refrigeration is crucial to prevent spoilage and extend freshness.

Choosing the Right Container

Selecting the correct container is pivotal to preserve the cheese’s texture and taste.

Place your ricotta salata in an airtight container, ideally made of glass, which preserves flavor best and prevents absorption of unwanted odors.

If an airtight container isn’t available, wrapping the cheese tightly in plastic wrap can suffice.

Make sure the storage container is both clean and dry to inhibit bacterial growth.

Preventing Spoilage

A block of ricotta salata is stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage

Proper storage of ricotta salata is essential in maintaining its freshness and preventing bacterial growth and mold. Minimizing air exposure and controlling the storage environment are crucial steps to avoid spoilage.

Signs of Deterioration

  • Mold: Watch for any signs of mold, which typically presents as spots or fuzzy growth on the cheese surface. If mold appears, the cheese may no longer be safe to eat.
  • Odor: A sour or off smell is an indication that the ricotta salata is past its prime.
  • Texture: Changes in texture, such as becoming overly hard or slimy, are a clear sign of deterioration.

Handling Leftovers

  • Airtight Storage: Immediately store your leftover ricotta salata in an airtight container. This practice reduces air exposure that could expedite mold formation and bacterial growth.
  • Refrigeration: Keep the cheese in the coldest part of your refrigerator, ideally between 35°F and 40°F (1.7°C and 4.4°C), away from the door to minimize temperature variations.

Culinary Uses

A block of ricotta salata sits on a wooden cutting board, wrapped in parchment paper and stored in a refrigerator. A label with the cheese's name is visible on the packaging

Ricotta Salata is a versatile cheese that you can use to add a touch of Sicilian flair to a range of dishes. Its firm texture and salty flavor become indispensable in elevating simple recipes.

Incorporating into Dishes

  • Pasta Dishes: Enhance your pasta dishes by grating ricotta salata over the top. Use in classics such as pasta alla norma to add a savory, salty counterpoint.
  • Baked Italian Specialties: In lasagna and cannoli fillings, crumble ricotta salata for an additional layer of texture and flavor that complements tomato and sweet fillings harmoniously.
  • Vegetable Preparations: Sprinkle finely crumbled cheese over grilled or roasted vegetables to introduce a salty, creamy element that contrasts the natural sweetness and char.
  • Stuffings and Fillings: Elevate ravioli filings by incorporating ricotta salata, providing bursts of salinity against the backdrop of tender pasta and rich sauces.

Perfect Pairings

  • Salads: Combine ricotta salata with seasonal greens, fruits like watermelon, and nuts to offer a balanced salad with a satisfying variety of flavors and textures.
  • Pizzas: Thinly slice the cheese and distribute it on pizzas, where it will melt slightly and contrast with the tangy pizza sauce and other toppings.
  • Italian Cuisine: Experiment by using ricotta salata as a topping for a range of Italian dishes, especially where feta might be applied, to add a distinct Italian twist.
  • Baking: Incorporate shavings of ricotta salata into your baked goods where cheese is called for, adding a unique, slightly tangy taste that holds up well during the baking process.

Choosing Substitutes

Ricotta salata being placed in a labeled airtight container in the refrigerator next to other cheeses

When you can’t find ricotta salata for your recipes, choosing the right substitute can save your dish. You’ll want to match the texture and flavor profile as closely as possible for the best results.

Alternative Cheeses

For textural similarity and a salty bite, the following cheeses are excellent substitutes:

  • Feta Cheese: This Greek cheese is crumbly like ricotta salata and has a tangy flavor. Opt for varieties that have been aged for a nuttier taste.
  • Cotija: A Mexican cheese that is salty and crumbly, resembling the texture of ricotta salata.
  • Pecorino Romano: A hard, Italian cheese known for its salty and tangy flavor which can mimic the taste of ricotta salata.
  • Parmesan: Offers a hard texture and salty, nutty flavor that can work as a substitute in many dishes.
Cheese SubstituteTextureFlavor Notes
Feta CheeseCrumblyTangy, can be nutty if aged
CotijaCrumblySalty
Pecorino RomanoHardSalty, tangy
ParmesanHardSalty, nutty

Substitutes in Recipes

For non-dairy options or when you want a milder taste in specific recipes:

  • Tofu (preferably silken): It provides a mild flavor and a similar consistency to ricotta.
  • It’s an ideal dairy-free option for those with lactose intolerance or for vegan recipes.
  • Mizithra: An unsalted substitute that can be used when you desire a less salty alternative to ricotta salata.
  • Ricotta Infornata: A baked version of ricotta that can replace ricotta salata for a firmer texture.
  • Blue Cheese: For a tangy flavor with a bit more pungent aftertaste, use sparingly in dishes to replace ricotta salata.

Remember: The best substitute depends on whether you prioritize taste or texture in your dish.

Choose accordingly to ensure your meal is a success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ricotta salata stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator, surrounded by other dairy products and labeled with "Ricotta Salata - Store in Refrigerator" sign

Properly storing ricotta salata is crucial for maintaining its flavor and texture. This section provides you with targeted advice to ensure your cheese remains in the best condition.

What is the best method to store ricotta salata in the refrigerator?

To store ricotta salata in your refrigerator, keep it in a sealed container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.

This will help maintain its moisture and prevent it from absorbing other flavors in the fridge.

Can you freeze ricotta salata, and if so, how?

Yes, you can freeze ricotta salata.

First, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then place it in a freezer bag, squeezing out as much air as possible before sealing and freezing.

After opening, how long does ricotta salata remain fresh?

Once opened, ricotta salata can stay fresh for up to two weeks when properly refrigerated and stored in a tightly sealed container to avoid exposure to air.

Are there specific storage containers recommended for preserving the quality of ricotta salata?

Airtight containers are recommended for storing ricotta salata.

They prevent the cheese from drying out and protect it from other food odors in the refrigerator.

What signs indicate that ricotta salata has spoiled?

Signs of spoilage in ricotta salata include an off smell, a change in color, and the presence of mold.

If the cheese feels slimy or has visible mold spots, it should not be consumed.

Is there a difference in storage techniques between fresh ricotta and ricotta salata?

Ricotta salata is salted and aged, making it drier and firmer than fresh ricotta, which contains more moisture.

Ricotta salata consequently requires airtight storage, whereas fresh ricotta should be consumed more quickly and kept in its original container with excess liquid drained.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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