Enjoy now: ricotta
As cheeses go, ricotta is somewhat bland; moist and delicate, it usually acts as a carrier for other flavours while adding a pleasant, light creaminess without a fatty mouth-feel. Most of us buy ricotta in tubs but traditional or authentic ricotta is a slightly different product: firmer and with more flavour. In most cases it won’t matter which style you use, tub or traditional, although when ricotta is the star ingredient it’s worth paying the extra for “real” ricotta. Recipes that state “fresh ricotta” generally imply that the real product will give best results. If a tub is your only choice, it can be useful to tip the contents into a sieve lined with cloth and allow any excess liquid to drain off.
Ricotta literally means recooked, referring to how this Italian-origin cheese is traditionally made: by reheating the whey left over from pecorino production.
Ricotta is from the family of soft, fresh cheeses (along with the likes of quark and paneer), which means it doesn’t keep well and should be eaten within about a week of being made. Unopened tub ricotta lasts longer because it contains preservatives.
Ricotta is one of the simplest cheeses to make at home. You can use whey left over from making another cheese (it doesn’t have to be pecorino) or simply fresh milk – online tutorials abound.