When you note that a recipe specifies a type of cheese, it’s because the ingredient plays a crucial role in its final result. It could be for a boost in flavor, creaminess, or aesthetic appeal. But with Ricotta Salata, the goal is a robust taste. And as one of the most powerfully-flavored cheese around, it gives nothing less than expected.
But Ricotta Salata isn’t always within reach, including its numerous other varieties. So you may feel to panic when you can’t find the dairy product at your local grocery store. But hold that thought and bask in the idea that there’s a solution to such a problem. And that’s true because tons of substitutes for this European cheese are scattered all around you.
But first of all, what makes Ricotta Salata so special? And why would anyone, after hearing about such a gourmet treasure, decide not to use it at all?
What is Ricotta Salata?
Ricotta Salata is a tasteful Italian cheese derived from sheep milk curd, though other cow’s milk varieties are also available. The name indicates its production, as ricotta translates to ‘recooked’ while Salatameans ‘salty. The product is obtained from fresh ricotta, pressed and dried, and then added with salt. And the result is a hard textured, somewhat salty cheese.
Ricotta Salata, as indicated, is gotten from regular ricotta, which explains its creamy nature. But it’s also aged for at least three months, during which its flavor and texture profiles take a different turn. And though its name sells the idea that it’s a salty cheese, the presence isn’t as glaring as expected. And it’s sold in various brands outside of Sicily, though not in as many quantities as other cheese types.
Ricotta Salata in Recipes
Ricotta Salata has a unique nutty and milky flavor that blends with a decent amount of saltiness. The latter isn’t so bold that it overshadows the other elements, as some might believe. And the cheese has a smooth texture with enough rigidity that it needs to be crumbled or grated before use. This factor is why the Ricotta Salata is also called “per la grattugia,” meaning ‘for the grater.’
You’ll find Ricotta Salata in an extensive array of uses, especially in Italian cuisines. It’s a great way to add a dose of creaminess and umami to dishes. The cheese’s mild saltiness lifts the taste of vegetables, meat, fish, and even seafood. And it’s an impressive team player, working with other ingredients to build complexity in the dish’s flavor.
The Sicilian cheese is also perfect with fruits and bread. And you’ll find it in baked foods as well. And you can either grate ricotta cheese onto foods or cut slices to make desserts. And because of its hard texture, the cheese doesn’t melt, allowing it to sit and release its flavor.
Many examples of foods where Ricotta Salata is used for improving flavor include the following;
- Roasted vegetables
- Scrambled eggs
- Wilted greens
- Poached eggs
- Baked pasta
- Grilled pizzas
- Cheese sauce
- Green beans
- Broccoli Rabe
- Stir-fried vegetables
- Spanish gnocchi
- Tuna dishes
- Baked cheese
- Baked pizzas
- Cheese spread
- Cheese balls
Substitutes for Ricotta Salata
As impressive as it is, some people may still wish to do away with Ricotta Salata in their cooking. Perhaps you find its flavor too bold and want to tone it down without completely losing its uniqueness. or maybe you’re a vegan and can’t consume anything dairy. or it may be that you have no problem using Ricotta Salata but can’t find any. And a time may also come when you’re stuck on a recipe and discover your supply has run out!
In any of these tight spots, handy Ricotta Salata cheese substitutes can be a great relief. Many of the options listed here are cheeses with similar features, so they’ll supply a considerable resemblance to Ricotta Salata in your dishes. And other suggestions can also tend to those with more special dietary needs.
This Greek cheese makes an excellent Ricotta Salata substitute for many reasons. First, it can also be made from sheep’s milk, though other varieties from goat milk are also available. And the feta, like Ricotta Salata, needs to age for a minimum of 3 months. What’s more, is you can also choose any feta cheese that’s been aged for up to a year as a Ricotta Salata replacement. And it comes with a similar creamy or buttery texture that’s very close to Ricotta Salata’s.
But feta cheese has a more robust tang and is somewhat saltier, so you’ll need half the amount to replace Ricotta Salata. Still, it’s much easier to find and works in all recipes that call for this Sicilian cheese.
This substitute is also made in Italy and, like Ricotta Salata, is derived from sheep milk curd and aged for a considerable time. But Pecorino Romano uses about eight months to reach its preferred flavor and texture profile. It also works perfectly in recipes where you need to grate Ricotta Salata. And if you want an infusion of smokiness to the dish, consider a more aged version of the substitute.
Pecorino Romano also melts as opposed to ricotta salat, making it ideal for baked goods. It’s also great in casseroles and works perfectly atop baked vegetables. You can use equal amounts of Pecorino Romano to replace Ricotta Salata, but if it’s aged more than eight months, reduce how much of it you’ll apply.
When feta cheese is produced, the remaining whey is used to createManouri cheese. This source gives it similar features like feta, making it an impressive Ricotta Salata cheese substitute. Manouri has a semi-soft texture that’s perfect for crumbling and offers a slight tang in its taste. Plus, with this option, you also get an exciting undertone of citrus in its flavor.
Manouri works in everything, from pizzas to pasta, fruits, nuts, vegetables, meat, and casseroles. And because its flavor is milder than ricotta, you can use equal amounts of it in recipes where such would be preferred.
For those with non-dairy dietary needs, tofu can easily replace Ricotta Salata in your dishes. Its soy milk base means you get just as much protein, and it’s known to absorb flavors from other ingredients in the recipe. But tofu isn’t as salty, so you’ll need a dash of that to lift its taste closer to Ricotta Salata.
Also, note that tofu tends to carry a significant amount of moisture. So, before using, it’s best first to squeeze it till the water is drained. Do it by pressing the tofu against paper towels till it hardens. And once it’s ready, substitute it at equal amounts in salads and pasta dishes, with a sprinkle of seasoning to enhance the flavor.
If you aren’t allergic to nuts, then you’d be pleased to know that cashew cheese is an actual thing. And this substitute works as a quick-fix option in pasta dishes, side dips, or any other recipe that needs the Sicilian cheese.
To make cashew cheese, soak two cups of cashew nuts in water till they soften. Then, drain the nuts and place them in a blender. Add ¾ cup water, ½ cup yeast, three tablespoons of lemon juice, and one tablespoon of seasoning and salt. Then, blend the ingredients till smooth and adjust the taste with as much salt and seasoning as preferred.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the difference between ricotta and Ricotta Salata?
Ricotta Salata is dry and crumbly, with a saltier flavor. But regular ricotta is milder and has a spreadable, creamy texture.
Can I freeze Ricotta Salata?
Yes, you can. But note that while the cheese will keep in the freezer, the texture and flavor may be affected by such storage conditions. It’ll still work in your numerous recipes regardless.
Is Ricotta Salata bad?
Quite the contrary. Ricotta Salata is probably healthier than most types of cheese as it has less fat and salt.
Cheese is a particular ingredient, and Ricotta Salata is one of the best there is. So, whenever you require it but can’t find any, having close substitutes can quickly ease the stress. It’s why these alternatives have been highlighted with options to suit your needs. Use them in your following recipe, and explore a range of flavor possibilities for a Ricotta Salata-based dish.