So, What Is Ricotta Cheese Anyway?!

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Ricotta Cheese Ravioli

Ricotta what?

If you have ever cooked, eaten or seen Italian food before, it’s like you have come across Ricotta Cheese. If you haven’t, then it’s about time you came out from under your rock. We have electric cars & Bluetooth kettles now it’s great.

For those of you who are rock dwellers, we will briefly explain what ricotta cheese is:

Ricotta cheese is an Italian cheese which can be made using either sheep, cow, goat or even water buffalo milk. It’s creamy white in its appearance and has a sweet taste to it.

Quite nice actually.

It’s used a wide variety of recipes of savoury dishes such as pasta & pizza but it is also widely used in desserts, such as cheesecake.

Despite all of this, have you ever stopped and thought – What actually is it?!

Well, that’s what we are here for buddy!

We need to start by explaining what it’s actually made from.

What is Ricotta cheese made from?

As we mentioned above, Ricotta cheese is made from either cow, sheep, goat or Italian water buffalo milk whey. This milk whey is usually left over from the production of other cheese made by the Italian cheesemakers.

What the hell is Milk Whey we hear you ask?!

Well child, buckle up, we are going on a cheesy adventure.

How is Ricotta Cheese Made?

If you ever make cheese in your lifetime, you are going to have to separate the milk into 2 different components. The first being the solid curds which are extracted and made into the hard cheese you know and love. What’s left behind is a liquid called whey milk. This is exactly what Ricotta is made from.

Once you’ve finished extracting all of the solid cheese curds and have made your delightful hard cheese, you can then turn your attention to the leftover milk whey,

It’s worth noting that Ricotta is not the only whey cheese out there. There’s the greek Mizithra & the Romanian Urdă to name just a couple more!

Anyway back to it – In order to make Ricotta you are going to want to heat your whey with a drop of milk & citrus juice. This will cause the remaining cheese curds lurking in the whey milk to begin to coagulate and grow larger. Eventually, they will become solid and you can strain any excess whey through a cheesecloth and be left with the perfect ricotta cheese!

Fun Fact – A literal translation of the word Ricotta from English to Italian is Recooked. Get it?!

So that is largely how ricotta was originally made in Italy. Since then, Americans have begun to make ricotta cheese from whole milk instead of using the leftover whey milk.

We personally don’t think it’s any better or worse the American way but we wouldn’t dare admit that to any Italian just to be on the safe side!

Riccota Cheese Vs Cottage Cheese

A question we get asked a lot is what is the difference between Ricotta cheese & Cottage Cheese.

Despite looking a bit similar, they are actually completely different cheeses made in differing ways which different flavours.

As we outlined above, traditionally in Italy Ricotta is made from the leftover Whey milk after the initial cheese making process has been completed.  

Cottage cheese, on the other hand, is made from the solid curds in the first run of cheese making.

As cottage cheese is made from the curds and Ricotta is made from the whey milk, the result is that the cottage cheese is a lot more grainy and rubbery whilst the Ricotta is smooth and creamy.

The reason why your cottage cheese is slightly more liquid-based than the other cheese made from curds is that It is made not by pressing the cheese but by draining it. This allows some of the whey milk to stay around causing the curds to remain loose.

We hope we have helped to clear things up on all things Ricotta based, but if you do have any questions, please let us know!

Andy Canter


Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.

This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!