Ricotta cheese is versatile and adaptable, being used in both sweet and savory dishes. With a smooth, creamy texture, it’s an excellent addition to many dishes.
The taste of ricotta cheese has a hint of sweetness and a bit of tart, tanginess. It has a creamy, fairly thick consistency and even though it is made with curds, has a smooth feel.
One of the great things about ricotta cheese is that it goes well with a huge variety of dishes. Let’s look at some of the main dishes that include ricotta cheese and what it tastes like in each meal. As mentioned, ricotta cheese is used in both savory and sweet dishes.
While ricotta cheese does have a hint of sweetness to it, it is used in a multitude of savory dishes. Some of the most popular are baked pasta dishes, flatbreads, quiche, and frittatas.
Baked Pasta Dishes
With the exception of desserts, baked pasta dishes might be the most ubiquitous home for ricotta cheese. Lasagna and baked ziti, two of the most popular Italian dishes both feature ricotta cheese.
In baked pasta dishes, ricotta cheese tastes mostly like the flavor of the sauce it’s being eaten with. One of the benefits of having a mild flavor is that it’s easy to take on flavors of other ingredients.
Ricotta cheese is used in baked pasta dishes mainly for texture. The cheese helps keep all the ingredients smooth and creamy.
Flatbreads are great because they are so versatile and easy to change up. If you’re having a party, flatbreads are a great option to make sure everyone gets something they like.
Using ricotta cheese on a flatbread can be as easy or decadent as you’d like. Depending on the flatbread you choose, the ricotta cheese may enhance different flavors. Here’s a quick easy flatbread idea that uses ricotta cheese.
Make (or use store-bought) your favorite bread dough for this recipe.
- 8 oz of ricotta cheese (drained)
- 3 plum tomatoes (sliced thin)
- 3 TBSP fresh basil
- Olive oil or your oil of choice (enough to brush your dough)
- 8-10 cloves of roasted garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Brush olive oil onto your flatbread, you want it fairly moist
- Grill on both sides until golden burn, be careful not to burn
- Remove from grill
- Spread on your ricotta cheese, to the thickness of your liking
- Sprinkle on salt and pepper
- Add tomato slices
- Add roasted garlic
- Top with fresh basil
This flatbread recipe uses a generous amount of ricotta cheese to add a creamy texture. It may taste sweeter than you think, as it will also take on the flavor of the roasted garlic. When garlic is roasted it gets caramelized and makes it taste milder.
When you get down to it, a quiche is really just a savory tart. While tarts are filled with custard, savory tarts, quiche, often use ricotta cheese. With its creaminess and mildly tangy flavor, it’s an excellent addition to a quiche.
A frittata is somewhat like a crustless quiche. Adaptable to most flavors, frittatas are a great way to use up any leftovers. Toss in whatever leftover meats and vegetables to make a delicious meal.
So what does ricotta have to do with this? Putting ricotta cheese in a frittata helps to make it light and creamy, similar to its job in quiche.
It may sound a little strange to think about putting cheese in a dessert. However, some of the most famous (and delicious) desserts contain ricotta cheese. While savory dishes used ricotta more for its texture, sweet dishes will also use its flavor.
Some of the most popular sweet dishes with ricotta cheese are cheesecake, cannolis, tiramisu, mousse, and pancakes.
Did you know that one of the most famous desserts is made with ricotta cheese? Putting ricotta cheese into cheesecake gives it that tart flavor that is unique to cheesecake. It also helps to make the cake light and fluffy.
Sometimes you’ll find cheesecake recipes that call for mascarpone cheese. If you do, you can substitute for ricotta cheese, mixed with a little cream cheese.
Cannolis might vie cheesecake for one of the top Italian desserts. It’s easy to understand why. Who doesn’t love a cannoli?
In a cannoli, ricotta cheese fills fried pastry dough that has been molded into a tube shape. Often the ricotta is mixed with a little bit of powdered sugar to help sweeten it even more.
The sweetened ricotta gives the cannoli a delicious creamy flavor. Sometimes the tips are dipped with chocolate chips to make them extra decadent.
Another classic Italian dessert, tiramisu is traditionally made with mascarpone cheese, as opposed to ricotta cheese. However, if you choose to use ricotta cheese instead, you’ll get a less sweet, fluffier version.
If you are someone who finds tiramisu good, but a little too sweet, substitute in some ricotta cheese. It will also help bring out some of the other flavors in the dish, such as the espresso.
Mousse is a fun, if somewhat unusual way to use ricotta cheese. Using ricotta cheese makes this dessert feel rich and sinful when actually it’s fairly healthy.
Here’s a super easy ricotta cheese mousse recipe for when you want something fancy, but quick.
Ricotta Cheese Mousse Recipe
This recipe is quick and easy. Just make sure you have a blender before you get started.
- 1 oz of ricotta cheese
- ½ fresh raspberries (or tart berry of your choice)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- additional berries for garnish
- Blend ricotta cheese and berries in a blender until smooth
- In another bowl, beat the heavy cream until thick
- Add the powdered sugar
- Beat until stiff peaks form
- Carefully fold the cream into the ricotta mixture
- Fill your serving glasses and refrigerate for one hour
- Garish with extra berries
This mouse, thanks to the ricotta cheese, will be rich, creamy, and delicious. The tanginess of the ricotta cheese goes wonderfully with tart berries.
Are pancakes a dessert? We say if you eat them at dessert time, you can call pancakes a dessert. Especially if you make them with ricotta cheese.
Ricotta cheese makes your pancakes light and fluffy. Adding a little citrus flavor helps to bring out the tartness in the ricotta cheese. So, go ahead and toss some lemon zest in with your pancake batter!
Ricotta Cheese vs. Mascarpone Cheese
We’ve mentioned both of these types of cheese, so you might be wondering what the difference is between them. Let’s do a quick comparison to what makes ricotta cheese different from mascarpone cheese.
Ricotta cheese is an Italian cheese, essentially made from the leftovers from the production of other cheeses. Don’t let the process turn you off. The ‘leftovers’ are heated, then cooled and separated to create whey.
In terms of its texture, ricotta cheese has an airy texture that can be somewhat grainy, due to the curds. The fact that it has a lower fat content also contributes to its lighter texture.
Ricotta has a very mild flavor. It is slightly sweet and somewhat tangy, but these flavors do not overpower, they are subtle.
Mascarpone cheese is also an Italian cheese, but closer in character to a block of cream cheese than ricotta cheese.
Mascarpone cheese is similar to ricotta cheese in some ways. But it does have a higher fat content and a denser texture.
Unlike ricotta cheese, mascarpone has a much bolder tart flavor. Because of this, it’s less versatile than ricotta cheese and doesn’t pair as well with a large variety of food. You’re unlikely to have mascarpone in the house unless you bought it for a specific recipe.
A Versatile Delicious Cheese
Now that you know that ricotta cheese tastes like a mild sweetness along with a hint of tart. You know it has a light, smooth, creamy texture. So go out and try it in something today!