Memorable, delicious, and extremely easy, lasagne is one recipe that’ll always occupy a special place in our hearts. And why shouldn’t it? It’s packed with flavor, filling, and super appealing to the eyes. And one key ingredient in making the best lasagna dish is ricotta. This creamy cheese contributes a lot to making the recipe tasty and irresistible.
So, it’ll suck if you find yourself in the middle of making some, only to realize you can’t use ricotta for some reason. Well, your recipe doesn’t have to be a disaster, as handy substitutes for ricotta cheese in lasagne are around you. But beforehand, what’s ricotta cheese made of? And what makes it a critical ingredient in lasagna dishes?
What is Ricotta Cheese?
Ricotta is a specialized type of cheese made from whey. The dairy ingredient may be derived from cow, goat, sheep, and sometimes Italian water buffalo’s milk. And though this cheese has impressive features in its arsenal, the production process isn’t as complicated as expected.
Milk is heated and cooled, releasing whey in the process. This by-product is extracted, fermented with an acidic addition, and heated to form curds. Then, the curds are cooled by hanging in a fine cloth, through which most of the whey drains out. And what’s finally left is a solid but creamy piece of cheese named ricotta.
What Does Ricotta Do in Lasagna?
Of course, ricotta isn’t the only cheese in lasagne, which also contains varieties like gouda, cheddar, parmesan, and mozzarella. But ricotta isn’t added as a topping but from the inception of the lasagne recipe. It’s combined with the eggs and seasoned with herbs,, and salt. This mixture comprises the sauce-like base of the recipe and is the source of creaminess and moisture in lasagne.
Most of the moisture supplied to the lasagne is contributed by the smooth and soft texture of ricotta cheese. And as the lasagne bakes, the egg-ricotta combo and allows the recipe to set while remaining reasonably moist.
Ricotta Substitutes in Lasagna
If you’re ever out of ricotta cheese and need to whip a fresh batch of lasagne, picking a substitute is essential. But it helps to understand what you’re replacing in the lasagne dish before you choose a replacement for ricotta. The first thing to consider is its soft and creamy texture, which helps keep the lasagne moist. And the second is its creamy flavor, so ensure that the alternative you choose shares a similar milk base as the ricotta you’re replacing.
Like ricotta, cottage cheese is also made from whey. And it undergoes a similar production process of adding acid, heating, and cooling. Plus, cottage cheese is hung to dry, just like ricotta cheese. These features give it a texture and flavor profile that works to replace ricotta cheese in lasagne. And you can also choose from different flavors, allowing your recipe to embrace a wide possibility of taste.
But cottage cheese is wetter than ricotta, so when choosing, go for the driest option. And if you can’t find such, try draining the one you’ve got before mixing it with the eggs. Also, it’s best to use the fine or medium-textured varieties as they offer a smoothness close to ricotta. And if after all that’s done, the sauce seems wetter than usual, adding another egg can balance the consistency.
Goat cheese offers a very soft and creamy texture that can also spread. And it’s made under a similar process as ricotta; acidified milk is heated, cooled, and drained. The creamy taste and soft consistency allow it to work as an excellent substitute for ricotta cheese in lasagna sauce. But there’s a rule to obey; when using goat cheese, make sure only to choose the fresh ones.
Compared to the aged types, which are denser, fresh goat cheese carries the right texture for lasagna recipes. Plus, the flavor is milder than aged and resembles ricotta with a tinge of tartness. Also, note that goat cheese may add uniqueness to your lasagna if you aren’t used to it. But it isn’t so bad and will blend rightly provided you use the plain variety instead.
It does sound odd to use a milk and cheese combo ingredient in lasagna instead of ricotta. But cream cheese ticks all the boxes required for ricotta cheese substitutes. Its smooth consistency is creamier than ricotta and can be appreciated in lasagna sauce. And when the plain option is used, the flavor is even closer to the original cheese ingredient.
When using cream cheese to replace ricotta, you may want to add less egg than required in the recipe. The reason is an extra egg may combine with the heavy consistency of cream cheese to create a rubbery thickness after baking. But it’s still a flexible substitute, as you can choose non-fat, low-fat, and various flavor options.
If you live in a region where paneer is easier to find than ricotta cheese, then it’s your best bet for lasagna recipes. Paneer is no different from regular cottage cheese, as it’s made in the same manner except being cooked at a higher temperature. Also, while traditional cottage cheese is strained and hanged, paneer is mostly pressed. Besides these distinctions, though, it’s still considerably soft and will work well in lasagna dishes.
But the Indian cottage cheese is firmer than ricotta, so you’ll have to puree or chop it to suit your sauce’s consistency. And though it’s creamy, the taste is primarily neutral, allowing the recipe to be influenced as you see fit. Plus, with paneer in the lasagna, you won’t need to use an egg, but it’s still alright if you do.
For vegans, eating dairy products is out of the question. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a delicious helping of creamy lasagna. So, when in need of a ricotta cheese substitute, try tofu. It’s made from soy milk, so you’ll get a good dose of smoothness in its consistency.
Soy milk is produced in the same manner as most cheeses, minus the use of dairy milk. And it comes in various forms ranging from silken to soft, firm, and extra firm. Of the different options, silken tofu behaves best as a ricotta substitute in lasagna. And once blended, it’ll incorporate into the recipe, making it perfect for not just vegans but also lactose intolerance.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I use mozzarella instead of ricotta?
Mozzarella is also added to lasagna like ricotta, but they serve different functions in the recipe. Ricotta is used in the dish to infuse moisture, which is something mozzarella lacks significantly. So, it can’t work as a substitute for ricotta in lasagna.
Can I use crème Fraiche instead of ricotta?
Yes, you can. Crème Fraiche carries as much moisture and creaminess as ricotta and can replace it in lasagna recipes. Plus, it’ll add a small dose of tang to the dish.
Can I use mascarpone instead of ricotta in lasagna?
Yes, you can. Mascarpone is related to cream cheese, so it shares its consistency and creaminess. But mascarpone has a slight tartness and dense texture than ricotta. So, the best way to swap is only to use it in robustly-flavored lasagna recipes and thin it out a bit to match the thickness of ricotta cheese.
Are you making lasagna but don’t have ricotta? You don’t need to worry! Any of these soft-textured and creamy alternatives will do nicely instead. Ricotta plays a significant role in the best lasagna recipes, but it’s not indispensable. And with these substitutes, you can still whip up a delicious, scintillating dish for every occasion without ricotta cheese.