Ricotta Cheese – Can You Freeze it? How to Preserve that Extra CheeseGRA: Yes! for more than 1 month, place the container and tightly seal
Finally! You find the recipe for that delicious dish or dessert you had last week. It requires a couple of spoons of ricotta cheese, and you are fresh out. You pop into the supermarket to get a medium-size cup that should be just enough and, what do you know? There are only large tubs in the store, and they are not cheap! You ask yourself, “What do I do?” “Can I freeze what’s left for later?” The simple answer is, “Yes, you can freeze ricotta cheese!” BUT, to maintain its freshness, you must freeze it properly.
Ricotta cheese is that soft, creamy, slightly sweet cheese used in many delicious recipes for pies, cheesecakes, tarts, and muffins. Most especially, it is a major ingredient in Italian dishes and desserts like cannoli, lasagne, ravioli, meatballs, tortellini, etc. Little wonder, its origins have been traced to early 13th century Sicily. Ricotta, which literally translates to “cooked once again,” is actually the by-product AKA whey gotten from mozzarella and provolone cheese production. This foamy, watery whey is collected, re-cooked and drained until it becomes that fondly loved, creamy curd called Ricotta cheese.
While some might believe ricotta to be very similar to cottage cheese, ricotta cheese contains five times more calcium, has a high moisture content, and has a lighter consistency, which is great for overall health. Its delicate consistency allows it to melt easily, making for a delicious topping or dip for fruit, sweet rolls, Italian bread, bagels, hot and cold salads.
How to Freeze Ricotta Cheese
If you are accustomed to freezing cheese, a bare-faced attempt at freezing ricotta cheese for later use might have ended up being a huge challenge. To preserve ricotta cheese properly in the freezer, follow these simple steps:
As a general rule of thumb, ensure that the cheese is fresh. The closer it is to its best-before date, the less time it can last, even while frozen.
For unopened containers:
If you have some unopened ricotta containers that you intend to use soon, let’s say within a month, simply drop the container in the freezer. If you intend to freeze for more than 1 month, place the container in a freezer bag and tightly seal it before freezing.
Pictured Left to Right: Transferring Ricotta from Silicone Mould to Freezer bag; Ricotta in containers and freezer bag
- Use a spoon to stir whatever is left until it is even. This is to ensure the cheese stays even while frozen.
- Scoop the cheese onto a layer of paper towel and press down until it is thoroughly drained of water. If not properly drained, the remnant whey will make the cheese turn sour.
- You can choose to either wrap the cheese in plastic wrap or put it back in its original container or portion it in ice trays. If you are going to be using small portions over a period of time, it would be best to pack them in individual portions that will not require you to repeat the freezing process.
- To prevent it from getting freezer burns, place your cheese in heavy-duty freezer bags. Make sure you press out all the air from the bag, making it as airtight as possible, before sealing it.
- Label the bag with the date of expiry and the date of repackaging, and place it in the freezer.
- The freezing temperature is a key ingredient in the success of this mode of preservation – your freezer must remain at 0o Fahrenheit or. Or even lower, if you can manage that!
How to use frozen Ricotta Cheese:
One thing to keep in mind is that freezing your ricotta might change its texture slightly. Here is why!
When frozen, the high moisture (water) content, a major characteristic of fresh ricotta cheese, turns to ice. This ice separates the curds and whey, thereby turning it into a drier and grainier texture, which is primarily useful for particular recipes such as
- Cooking soups and sauces
- Baked food like stuffed shells, lasagne, spinach-ricotta quiche and baked ziti with sausage.
Ricotta Cheese meals: Soups, Dishes, and Dips for fruit, vegetables, and chips.
To get the best and safest consistency from your frozen ricotta cheese, place it in the refrigerator and allow it to thaw for five to six hours. You will notice some excess liquid that appears on the top. Depending on the consistency needed, you can choose to pour it out or mix it in thoroughly with a spoon or electric mixer. Never thaw your cheese at room temperature, as this will increase the chances of contamination from bacteria. The longer frozen cheese is left to thaw in the refrigerator; the further deteriorated the texture will become. The longest, acceptable time that frozen ricotta can keep in the refrigerator is three days.
If you notice an off-smell or taste or a yellowish coloring after thawing your ricotta cheese, discard it immediately. It has most likely gone bad, so don’t waste any effort trying to salvage it.
Another great way to preserve ricotta cheese by freezing is to prepare your chosen dish or dessert and put that in the freezer instead. Ricotta calzones, lasagne, gnocchi, ravioli, and manicotti are some of the dishes that can be prepared with frozen ricotta, but making the dish with the ricotta cheese and freezing it will produce even better results.
All you have to do is:
- Portion the food into individual sections and wrap each one in plastic wrap.
- Put each section in individual freezer bags and voila!
This method is great because not only is your ricotta cheese properly preserved, you also have some ready-to-eat dishes you can easily thaw in the refrigerator for a quick meal. When you are ready to use the portions, cover them with plastic wrap or wax paper if you are reheating them in a microwave or with aluminum foil paper if you are using an oven. If your dish is ricotta-stuffed pasta and the pasta has absorbed the sauce, add a little water before reheating.
Ricotta cheese will definitely make the list of cheeses that should ideally not be allowed to freeze, but this does not make it impossible. In fact, if done properly, frozen ricotta can last between three to six months. However, if a recipe specifically requires fresh ricotta or the dish is uncooked, steer clear of the frozen cheese! Cooked dishes are more accepting of the texture realized after freezing ricotta cheese.