Ricotta is not technically a cheese but is a product made from ingredients left over from the making of other cheeses. It is used in many Italian dishes, such as lasagna and ravioli, but it is also the basis for a number of ricotta desserts. This near cheese can be used in almost every type of dessert, including cookies, cakes, and puddings. Its creamy texture and hint of sweetness add a distinctive taste to both baked goods and cold confections.
Many desserts use ricotta as a filling. Cannolis use ricotta blended with other ingredients to fill the shells. Cheese blintzes are often made using ricotta either alone or mixed with other cheeses. Pastry tarts, too, can be filled with ricotta. When ricotta is used as a filling, it is usually mixed with other ingredients to sweeten the taste and provide a lighter texture.
Some ricotta desserts use the cheese in place of part of the moisture required. Cake and cookie recipes sometimes use ricotta to replace some of the butter. When baked into a dessert, ricotta adds its taste to the confection, while it maintains its traditional texture. Cheesecakes are made from ricotta, cream cheese, or a combination of both. These ricotta desserts take advantage of the fact that it maintains a firm texture when baked.
Ras malai is a type of Indian dessert made with paneer, a type of cheese. It can also be made using ricotta as a substitute for paneer. Ricotta’s subtle taste makes it an ideal substitute for other cheeses, such as cottage cheese, in many dessert recipes. Ricotta is naturally low in fat, making it an easy substitution for lowering the fat in many recipes with a high fat content.
There are a variety of pudding, crèmes, and fluffs that take advantage of ricotta’s creamy texture. These ricotta desserts use the addition of milk, cream, or other liquids to turn ricotta’s semifirm texture into a light, creamy liquid. Chocolate, fruits, and other flavorings work well with these types of desserts as the ricotta does not overpower the flavors of the other ingredients.
Several ricotta desserts originate from Italy. Along with cannolis and cassatas, pastieras are popular Italian ricotta desserts. A cassata is a type of Italian cake that uses ricotta spread between the layers. Another traditional Italian cake is the pastiera, a cake made from ricotta and served during the Easter season.