Year of Wellness: Shake up your dairy routine with Ricotta Cheese

By Jessica Linnell
Assistant Professor (Practice),
Family & Community Health,
Oregon State University Extension Service

June is dairy month! Dairy is an important part of a healthy eating because it provides calcium, potassium, magnesium and other important nutrients.
If you’re looking for something different to mix up your usual dairy routine, try ricotta cheese. Ricotta cheese is a fresh cheese that is readily available at grocery stores and very easy to make at home. When you think about ricotta, do you think of lasagna and ravioli? Did you know it’s used in other foods too? Ricotta’s wonderful milky flavor and creamy texture are a great addition to many different kinds of meals.
Move over avocado and make way for ricotta toast! Put a dollop of ricotta cheese on a piece of whole-grain toast and drizzle a bit of your favorite honey. This is also lovely when paired with summer fruits like berries or sliced peaches. You can also make this a savory toast and top with your favorite vegetables. Try whole grain toast topped with ricotta and sliced tomatoes, or mix ricotta with some sautéed spinach or Swiss chard and spread the mixture on toast.
Have you ever thought of swapping ricotta for mayonnaise? Spread ricotta on whole-grain bread and add your favorite meat and veggies. How about a turkey and ricotta sandwich with tomato, roasted red peppers, basil leaves, and lettuce.
Use ricotta instead of mayonnaise in tuna salad, egg salad, or chicken salad. For a great chicken salad mix together diced cooked chicken breast, ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and chopped parsley. Then add some crunch with some chopped nuts like almonds or pine nuts, and add some sweetness with grapes, raisins, or craisins.
Ricotta also can be used to make an easy desert. Mix ricotta with any of the following things for a delicious treat: honey, vanilla, cinnamon, sliced fruit, fruit jams or jellies, or toasted nuts like walnuts, almonds, or pistachios.

If you want to try making ricotta at home it takes just about 1 hour and then it’s ready to eat. You will need 2 quarts of whole milk (1/2 gallon), 1 cup of heavy cream, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from one lemon, one large collander, and fine-mesh cheesecloth. Line the colander with four layers of fine-mesh cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl. Bring milk, cream, and salt to a boil in a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Stir in lemon juice. Once it begins boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes. Pour the mixture into the lined colander and let it drain 1 hour. Discard the liquid, then cover and chill in the refrigerator; it will keep in the refrigerator 2 days. (Note: Whole milk can be replaced with 2%, 1%, or fat-free milk if preferred).

Need a great breakfast before going to the Tillamook County June Dairy Parade? Here’s a tasty recipe that combines delicious ricotta and summer berries for a hearty calcium-rich breakfast.