What is ricotta?
Ricotta is a fresh Italian cheese that is traditionally made with the leftover whey from sheep, cow, goat or water buffalo milk, that is used to make other cheeses. Ricotta has a mild, slightly sweet flavor and a soft, springy texture with fine, delicate granules of cheese curd. Ricotta's mild flavor makes it a natural for both sweet and savory dishes, and it is a staple of traditional Italian cooking.
How is ricotta made?
Ricotta (which means "re-cooked") is made by taking the whey (milk liquids) left over from other cheesemaking processes and allowing it to ferment for a period of time at lukewarm temperatures. It's then heated until nearly boiling, which causes any residual protein in the whey to solidify into curds. The mixture is then strained through a cheesecloth, to remove excess moisture. The result - a fresh cheese made of fine granules of cheese curd.
What's the difference between ricotta and ricotta salata?
While ricotta is highly perishable and should be consumed fresh, it can also be salted, pressed into a wheel and allowed to age for several months. This version is called ricotta salata, meaning "salted ricotta." Ricotta salata has a saltier taste while still being creamy. It can be grated, crumbled or carefully sliced.