Ricotta cheese is an important component of various Italian dishes such as lasagna. Unfortunately, you need to use ricotta relatively quickly after you open the package. Once opened, it will go bad in about 2 weeks. This is fine if you use a lot of ricotta, but what about people who only use it occasionally? Are they just out of luck?
If you have little experience with cheese or Italian food, you probably don’t know whether you can freeze ricotta. While you can freeze various types of food, some of them are simply not the same when thawed. This is definitely true with ricotta, though we will explain more below. So, can you freeze ricotta cheese? Let’s find out.
What Is Ricotta Cheese?
Ricotta is a classic Mediterranean cheese often used in Italian recipes, though people rarely eat it by itself. The cheese is made from excess whey, which is a residue from the production of other cheeses such as parmesan.
This dairy product has a very smooth texture. In many ways, it resembles cottage cheese or cream cheese due to its moisture content. Its crumbly texture makes it a perfect addition to desserts such as ricotta pie and cannoli.
Cheesemakers create fresh ricotta by recooking whey. As you can guess, it’s often made by companies that make numerous other cheese products and have a lot of leftover whey to deal with. Some is sold as a protein supplement, and some is used to make ricotta.
You can also make it at home. Depending on your preferences, you can make ricotta from both skimmed or whole milk. It all depends on how much fat content you want.
How to Store Ricotta Cheese
The main thing you need to consider is whether the ricotta is unopened and still in the original packaging. As long as it remains unopened and refrigerated, the product can remain fresh past its expiration date. If stored properly, it can last for 10 days after the expiration date shown on the label.
Nevertheless, we suggest you don’t wait too long to use it. Like any other dairy product, expired ricotta can cause all sorts of digestive issues, especially for sensitive people.
As mentioned, the product will rapidly start expiring once you open it. Even if you keep it in the refrigerator all the time, it won’t last longer than 2 weeks after opening, regardless of the expiration date on the label.
The ideal temperature for this cheese is 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Can You Freeze Ricotta Cheese?
Knowing this cheese has a short shelf life, the next question is whether it can be frozen. To be perfectly honest, freezing ricotta cheese is one of the worst things to do. It’s best to use leftover ricotta as soon as possible.
However, that doesn’t mean freezing it is impossible, but like other soft cheeses, ricotta can pose a problem due to high moisture. Frozen ricotta cheese will change its texture when thawed because all the excess liquid within it would have turned to ice. When it thaws, the creamy curd will split, and the cheese will be crumbly and dry.
If you’re determined to freeze this cheese, it’s much better to cook the cheese into dishes, then freeze those. If this cheese is fresh when you freeze it, you will easily notice a major change in the texture. By combining it with other foods, you will get a mixed texture that doesn’t rely so heavily on the ricotta alone.
Although freezing will change the texture, it will not necessarily change the taste. Keep this in mind as you decide whether or not to freeze your ricotta.
Read also: Can You Microwave Milk?
How to Freeze Ricotta Cheese
Ideally, you shouldn’t remove ricotta from its original packaging if you intend to freeze it. If you’re dealing with leftover cheese, you can use airtight containers, plastic wrap, or freezer bags. Here’s a step by step process that will help you freeze fresh ricotta:
- Start by putting ricotta in a dish and stirring it, which will make its texture more consistent and evenly distribute the moisture.
- Take it out from its initial container, and use paper towels to press down and remove any excess water content.
- Place it in plastic wrap. Alternatively, you can break the ricotta into tiny bits and put it in an ice cube tray, which will help it retain its initial consistency.
- Once wrapped, you can put it in an airtight plastic container for additional protection. Your leftover ricotta should be devoid of any excess liquid or air.
- Make sure to use frozen ricotta cheese within 2 months. Otherwise, you should throw it away.
Defrosting Ricotta Cheese
There are two main methods you can use for defrosting ricotta:
1. Defrost in the Fridge
Perhaps the best way to defrost frozen ricotta is to transfer it to the refrigerator. This way, you can slowly raise its temperature above freezing. Make sure to place the cheese in a bowl filled with water, which will help with thawing.
Generally, it takes about 5 to 9 hours to defrost frozen ricotta. So, it’s much better to start the process one day before you wish to use it. Then, you can use it for all the savory dishes you planned to make.
2. Defrost on the Counter
Placing it on the kitchen counter is a faster and more aggressive approach for defrosting. Instead of waiting for a day or so, the ricotta will be ready in just a few hours.
It’s better to put the container in a dish filled with lukewarm water. Once the liquid gets cold, replace it with more lukewarm water. Continue doing this for as long as necessary.
Unfortunately, this is not the best way to thaw ricotta cheese. The aggressive approach will change its texture and potentially affect its sweet taste. Furthermore, you won’t be able to return it to the refrigerator or the freezer afterward.
If you decide to thaw it using this method, you will need to use it as soon as possible. Otherwise, you risk bacterial contamination. Thawed ricotta cheese is an optimal place for bacteria growth, and you don’t want to take any risks.
Freezing Dishes Made With Ricotta
Instead of waiting for your ricotta cheese to go bad, you can make some baked dishes with it. That way, the ricotta’s consistency will be less of an issue, and you don’t have to waste any food.
Mixing the cheese with other ingredients will change how you store it. While you’ll still have to keep these meals in airtight containers, they’ll be much easier to use later on.
Here’s how to freeze ricotta meals:
- Once you make a dish (e.g., lasagna), cut it into smaller pieces
- Wrap each piece in plastic
- Place the individually wrapped pieces into freezer bags
This is great for several reasons. First off, you will utilize ricotta as originally intended. Its texture will not change, and you won’t have to rush things as you would with frozen ricotta. Furthermore, you will have numerous individual servings which you can use as needed.
Frozen Food Recipes With Ricotta
Here are some great frozen food recipes you can try out:
- Combine ricotta with eggs, parmesan, and various seasonings to make filling for lasagna and other dishes
- Combine ricotta with mozzarella cheese, eggs, parmesan, and seasoning, which will give you beautiful manicotti
- Combine ricotta with vanilla, cinnamon oil, sugar, chocolate, and pieces of orange to create cannoli filling
As with ricotta alone, it’s best to thaw these frozen foods in the refrigerator. The main difference is you’ll have smaller pieces to thaw, each of which is enough for one meal.
If you made ricotta pasta, you will have to add some water to the recipe before reheating. On the other hand, microwaving and heating in the oven will require that you wrap the food in aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
When creating recipes with ricotta, you need to consider the expiration date of both the ricotta cheese as well as the other ingredients. If you’re making ricotta desserts, they usually shouldn’t stay frozen for more than a month.
Freezing Ricotta Cheese and Egg Together
Ricotta cheese mixtures that contain eggs are a bit trickier to store. Both of these foods are troublesome whether you store them in the refrigerator or the freezer.
As a result, you need to pay extra attention to this mixture. Oftentimes, people might have trouble when they freeze certain types of desserts containing these two ingredients. Even if everything was properly cooked, baked, and frozen, there’s a chance the recipe will go bad.
So, to answer the question of can you freeze ricotta cheese, the short answer is yes. However, the long answer is that you probably shouldn’t unless you absolutely have to. We suggest you use the ricotta soon after opening for best results. And if you must freeze it, we recommend freezing it as part of a cooked dish rather than by itself.
We hope this article answered your question and gave you a little insight into this excellent cheese. If you would like to see more great content about the kitchen and food, please check out the other articles on the Savvy Kitchen.