by Lita Watson
Ricotta cheese has its origin in Italy. It was made from whey leftovers from the production of other types of cheese like mozzarella, and is sourced mainly from milk from sheep, cows, goats, or Italian water buffalo. Today, however, ricotta cheese can be homemade following various recipes that have been developed. It is used in dishes such as lasagna, cheesecakes, and pasta among others.
Benefits of Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta cheese has a number of benefits which gives it a nutritional edge over other kinds of cheese.
• Ricotta cheese contains higher levels of vitamins and minerals such as zinc and calcium compared to other kinds of cheese.
• It also contains high protein levels which are essential to build and repair body tissues.
• Ricotta cheese also contains enough levels of carbohydrates to provide one with sufficient energy.
Disadvantages of Ricotta Cheese
As much as ricotta cheese has a number of health benefits, it also comes with its own share of disadvantages. These include:
• The texture of ricotta can be quite rough to some people who may prefer it to be softer, for suitability as a dressing.
• In addition, it has high levels of cholesterol, 125 mg per serving, which is above that recommended by experts. High cholesterol levels in the body can lead to coronary problems thus it might not be the healthiest option especially if one takes it in large quantities.
• Another reason why ricotta cheese might not be the best option is that it has a high-fat content. The fat it contains can be fattening and in eventuality can cause one to develop cardiovascular problems. It is, therefore, advisable to use cheese with less fat content especially if you do not intend on adding a couple of pounds.
• As aforementioned, ricotta is made from whey leftovers which contains milk products. This, therefore, means that those who are lactose intolerant are not allowed to take it as they might develop an allergic reaction.
The good news, however, there are many substitutes for ricotta cheese. For instance, cottage cheese can be a great alternative to ricotta cheese because it has lower fat content. Ricotta can also be substituted by goat cheese, queso cheese, and mascarpone among other types of cheese.
When baking, queso and cottage cheese can be used as a substitute for ricotta cheese. This is because they both contain an almost similar moisture content. This is important towards ensuring that the end baked products maintain a similar texture as which it would have had if one used ricotta cheese.
Substitutes for Ricotta Cheese
For those who are lactose intolerant, all hope is not lost in their quest to also enjoy cheese or recipes that cheese is an ingredient. Lactose-free cheese has been produced for those who are unable of taking it. This prevents an allergic reaction to those who are lactose intolerant or have Chron’s disease.
Goat cheese can be used as a great substitute for ricotta cheese as they have an almost similar flavor. In addition, goat cheese has a texture that is close to that of the ricotta cheese. It can, therefore, be good for baking and even as a dressing for food such as lasagna.
Yogurt has also been suggested as a great alternative to ricotta cheese. It contains vitamin B12 which is essential in the body. Yogurt also has an upper hand in that it has a lower calorie level than ricotta cheese. Its fat content is also lower. One is however reminded to use plain yogurt so as not to introduce a flavor that might not go along with that specific recipe.
Cashew nuts can be used by vegans as a great substitute for ricotta cheese. It offers high protein levels which ricotta cheese also does. When it is grounded is gives the same texture that grated ricotta cheese does. Tofu has also been suggested by vegetarians as a great alternative for ricotta cheese especially when making a lasagna.
Queso fresco has been given as one that can be substituted for ricotta cheese. It is salty and thus provides a flavor which closely resembles that of ricotta cheese. It gives great flavor to food when used as a substitute.
Given that ricotta cheese comes from an end product when making other types of cheese, mozzarella, one of the types, can be used as a substitute. Despite it neither had the same flavor nor texture, it can be used when you had run out of ricotta cheese.
There are various recipes available when other ingredients can be substituted for ricotta cheese. An example shall be given below:
Lasagna without Ricotta Cheese
• 1 lb ground beef
• Lasagna noodles
• 1-1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella
• 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
• One medium sized onion
• 3 cups of spaghetti sauce
• 1 tsp of minced garlic
• Salt to taste
How to prepare:
1. The oven should be preheated to around 350 to 400 degrees. Read the instructions on the lasagna noodles and prepare them accordingly.
2. Cook the ground beef separately with the onions and garlic in a skillet and set aside.
3. Put the beef back in the skillet and add the spaghetti sauce, and both the mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
4. Spray the baking pan so that the food does not stick onto it.
5. Put the lasagna noodles on the bottom and then add the mixture on top.
6. Carefully repeat and make two layers of the same.
7. Lightly sprinkle the mozzarella on the top layer and let it bake for 30 minutes.
In this example, ricotta cheese has been replaced with the mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Try out this recipe and hopefully you might enjoy it even more than when you used ricotta cheese previously.
There are other various recipes available in which different alternatives have been used in place of ricotta cheese. It is advised that one should be creatively innovative and try out various ways through which ricotta can be substituted by other substitutes which can serve the same purpose as well.