Ricotta is a creamy Italian whey cheese used in numerous recipes. From pasta dishes like lasagna and ravioli to baked goods like cheesecake and tarts, ricotta cheese is a staple ingredient in many kitchens. In this article, learn how to store ricotta cheese properly to extend its shelf life and keep it from going bad in your fridge.
Although ricotta is sometimes made with sheep or goat’s milk, cow’s milk is more frequent. It is produced from excess whey that’s a leftover by-product from the preparation of other cheeses.
Like most soft cheeses, ricotta has a relatively short shelf life compared to high-fat dairy products like butter and hard cheeses. As such, refrigeration is critical to keep fresh ricotta cheese from spoiling.
Like other dairy products, ricotta cheese shouldn’t be left out at room temperature for longer than two hours to prevent bacterial growth that causes food poisoning.
For best results, store your ricotta in an airtight container and keep it refrigerated at a temperature of 40℉ or lower.
Best Way to Store Ricotta Cheese
Though taste and texture are major differences between hard and soft cheeses like ricotta, the best way to store cheddar cheese is in the fridge. For storing ricotta cheese, temperature and air exposure are the two most significant factors.
To prevent it from going moldy, the best way to store cheese is to keep fresh ricotta cheese below 40℉ and avoid leaving it out at room temperature for long periods. The same holds true for the way to store blue cheese and many other cheeses.
How long is ricotta cheese good for after it’s been sitting out? Discard ricotta cheese that’s been at room temperature longer than two hours. The best way to store ricotta cheese is in a sealed, airtight container.
Most of the time, ricotta cheese from the grocery store comes in a plastic container with a lid that’s perfect for storing in your refrigerator. Otherwise, wrap your leftover ricotta in aluminum foil or plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.
In general, ricotta cheese lasts for approximately one to two weeks after opening. Unopened ricotta is typically safe to consume for about three to five days after the sell-by date printed on the package.
How to Store Ricotta Cheese in the Fridge
Another reason to store fresh ricotta cheese in an airtight container in your fridge is to prevent it from absorbing other flavors or odors from nearby items. Have you ever wondered where to store ricotta cheese in your refrigerator?
It’s best to keep your opened ricotta cheese in the dairy compartment, located on the door of most refrigerators. It’s also the best place to store fresh mozzarella. This compartment usually maintains a slightly higher humidity level than the main shelves.
Also, your dairy products aren’t in danger of freezing, as sometimes happens to items left at the back of refrigerator shelves.
If you’re the DIY type, try making homemade ricotta cheese. It’s surprisingly easy and only takes about a half-hour to prepare.
Slowly warm the milk to 200℉ on the stovetop. It’s normal for the milk to steam and become foamy, but remove it from the heat immediately if it starts boiling.
Once it reaches 200℉, remove the milk from the stovetop and gently stir in the salt and lemon juice or vinegar. Let it rest for ten minutes.
The milk begins separating into clumps of creamy white curds and thin, watery, yellowish whey. If you still have lots of unseparated milk, add another tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and wait several more minutes.
Line your strainer with cheesecloth or paper towels. Set it over a bowl and scoop in the biggest curds with a slotted spoon to keep them from splashing as you pour the rest into the strainer.
Allow the curds to drain for at least ten minutes. Draining them longer produces a drier ricotta cheese. If it’s too dry, mix in a little bit of whey to achieve your desired consistency. Use homemade ricotta cheese right away, or store it in an airtight container for up to one week.
Best Containers for Storing Ricotta Cheese
In most cases, the plastic container ricotta cheese is sold in is adequate for storing ricotta cheese at home. Occasionally, it comes packaged in foil, plastic wrap, or waxed paper.
In those cases, transfer any leftover ricotta cheese to an airtight container or wrap it in aluminum foil or plastic wrap for storage, similar to the best way to store salami that has been cut.
Most ricotta cheese sold in a plastic container has a foil seal under the lid. When preserving cheese, it’s helpful to leave this seal intact and use it to wrap the rest of your ricotta cheese. Use it as protection against drying out and absorbing flavors and odors.
Can You Freeze Ricotta Cheese?
Freezing ricotta cheese is an excellent way to extend its shelf life. Can you freeze a feta cheese block? Yes. However, understand that the texture of cheese won’t be the same once it’s thawed.
Like cream cheese, the water separates from the fat content during the freezing process, resulting in a drier product with a grainy texture when defrosted.
Unopened ricotta cheese freezes best. If you need to freeze ricotta cheese after opening, seal it in a freezer bag to prevent freezer burn. Before freezing, drain off any excess whey that may be on top of the ricotta cheese.
Thawing Ricotta Cheese
It’s best to thaw frozen ricotta cheese in the refrigerator. The defrosting process takes about a day, but to speed things up, run the container of frozen ricotta under cold water.
For the best quality, try to use your frozen ricotta within three months. However, food stored at 0℉ is safe for consumption indefinitely. Nonetheless, you may notice a significant difference in the consistency after defrosting it.
It’s best to use frozen ricotta cheese in cooked dishes rather than eating fresh. If you have frozen ricotta cheese you need to use, try this recipe for homemade manicotti.
Whisk the flour, milk, eggs, and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Over medium heat, place two tablespoons of batter in the center of a lightly greased skillet.
Spread it into a five-inch circle and cook for a few minutes until the dough sets. Don’t turn it or allow it to brown. Repeat with the remaining batter, stacking the manicotti noodles with waxed paper in between so they don’t stick together.
Mix the cheeses, egg, and parsley. If desired, substitute mozzarella or Parmesan cheese for the Romano. Scoop three or four tablespoons of the cheese mixture into the center of each manicotti noodle and roll it up.
Pour about half of your pasta sauce into an ungreased baking pan. Arrange your manicotti evenly in the pan with the rolled seam down. Cover with the remaining pasta sauce and bake covered at 350℉ for 20 minutes. To serve, top with grated cheese and fresh parsley.
Signs of Spoilage for Ricotta Cheese
The first indication that your ricotta cheese might have spoiled is usually a sour smell. You may also notice a yellowish discoloration.
Immediately discard any food items that have gone moldy. Even if only one section of the container has visible mold, the spores are still present throughout.
Don’t worry if you notice a thin layer of watery liquid on top of your ricotta cheese. Some separation of the whey from the curds is normal.
Either drain off the excess whey or mix it back into the ricotta cheese. Ricotta curds appear as small granules with a slightly smoother texture than cottage cheese.
Note that freezing is not an effective method for salvaging spoiled food. Always check your food items for signs of spoilage before freezing them.
Ricotta cheese is a delicious, creamy soft cheese used in some of our favorite recipes. From savory Italian dishes like calzones and cannoli to delightful baked goods, ricotta cheese is a versatile ingredient.
With its mildly sweet flavor and creamy texture, ricotta also makes an excellent substitute for cream cheese on your breakfast bagel. When kept refrigerated in an airtight container, fresh ricotta cheese keeps up to two weeks.
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