It’s often considered a cheese, but actually is a dairy product obtained from reheated whey left from the production of cheese. Its name comes from Latin, re-coctus means cooked again.
Ricotta has a very old history as the first evidence of its production dates back to Sumer civilisation and Ancient Egypt. It is mentioned in the ninth book of Odyssey, when Ulysses (Odysseus) meets Polyphemus while preparing it. This means that it was spread among the Greeks and the Romans.
It was so popular in the Middle Age, that according to the Christian tradition Saint Francis of Assisi taught the shepherds from Lazio how to process it.
Ricotta can be made from buffalo, goat, sheep or cow milk, or mixing different types of milk according to the whey used. Furthermore it can be fresh, aged, baked, salted or smoked. The best one is obtained from whole unskimmed milk.
It is produced all over Italy, in particular in Sardinia, Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily, Puglia and Campania, besides Lazio where the ricotta romana is a traditional product.
How to use it in cooking.
Ricotta is an excellent and very versatile ingredient, widely used in Italian cooking, especially in Southern regions, for all kind of dishes, from first courses (grated on pasta with tomato sauce, or for ravioli and tortellini filling) to desserts (cassata, cannoli siciliani, pastiera napoletana).
Last but not least, it’s a low-fat food, being its nutritional value 130/240 Kcal every 100g of product.