What Is Ricotta Cream?

A.M. Boyle

Ricotta cream is a sweet, creamy blend made with ricotta cheese and sugar as its base ingredients. It generally has the smooth consistency and thickness similar to pudding. Other ingredients can be added to vary the flavor and consistency. The cream is used in various pastries and other dessert-type dishes.

Ricotta is a main ingredient of lasagna.
Ricotta is a main ingredient of lasagna.

The cheese known as ricotta has its origins in Italian cuisine. Ricotta, which taken literally means “re-cooked,” can be made from goat’s milk, sheep’s milk or, more commonly, cow’s milk. The cheese itself is made with both the whey, which is a liquid by-product of cheese, and the curds combined. It has a thick, slightly lumpy consistency, much like a fine cottage cheese. As a fresh cheese, the taste of ricotta is a little sweet and very creamy and because of its rich taste, it is often used in cheese-based Italian dishes such as lasagna, ravioli, or manicotti.

Sweetened ricotta is used as a filling in many different pastries.
Sweetened ricotta is used as a filling in many different pastries.

Considered one of the most versatile of all Italian cheeses, ricotta can be sweetened and whipped, creating the rich and creamy concoction known as ricotta cream. Generally, confectioners sugar, otherwise known as powdered sugar, is used in order to give the dish its ultra-smooth consistency. Usually, the sugar and the ricotta are blended together using an electric mixer on a high setting so that the result will be light, fluffy and extremely creamy.

Various ingredients can be added to the ricotta to change its flavor or consistency. For instance, some cooks prefer to add a flavored extract, such as vanilla or orange, to give the cream a particular flavor without changing its consistency. Others might add fruit to the ricotta which will change the consistency, but also gives it a fresh fruit flavor. Chocolate chips, coconut, or lemon zest can also be added.

The uses for ricotta cream also vary. One of its most well-known uses is in the Italian pastry called “cannoli.” Basically, a cannoli is a confection made with a hard, tubular shell that is filled with ricotta cream. There are quite a few other uses for ricotta cream as well. For instance, it can be used as a filling for Italian cream puffs and it is often used as an icing for a particular type of cake called a “cassata” cake. It is also very good eaten by itself as an alternative to pudding, or perhaps as a topping for fruit

Some people might hesitate to make or eat a sweet cream product that is made with an Italian cheese. In actuality, though, ricotta cream provides a healthier alternative to other sweet, creamy dessert products. For instance, it has fewer calories than traditional whipped cream or mousse desserts and it has more protein than traditional pudding-based recipes. Ricotta is such a versatile cheese that variations and uses for ricotta cream are limited only by a person’s own imagination.

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