Can You Freeze Ricotta Cheese?
No-one likes food waste but when dealing with leftovers, it can be tricky to know what you can freeze and what you can’t. And with cheese, the freezing process can actually change its texture and taste, leaving you with a thawed product that is no longer as you’d expect it to be. So, when it comes to that large tub of ricotta cheese and what to do with the leftovers, the secret is not just how you store and freeze it, but also the best ways to use it afterwards that make it worth putting it in for the chill.
We take a look at the best ways to answer the question ‘can ricotta cheese be frozen?’ and show you how you can extend the shelf life of this versatile and tasty fromage.
What Is Ricotta Cheese?
A staple go-to ingredient for salads, cheesecakes, pasta sauces, lasagna and even pizza toppings, ricotta cheese has a deliciously creamy, fresh taste and a smooth texture that makes it quick and easy to cook with. Believed to have originated from Sicily in the 13th Century, Ricotta is made from cow’s milk – either whole or skimmed – and takes its name from the Latin phrase ‘cooked twice’. Made from the whey by-product of other cheeses and a little lemon, a good ricotta should be firm but moist, with a smooth, spreadable texture that has very fine granules to create the creamy white cheese. This versatile ingredient also has an ever so slightly sweet taste that makes it suitable for both dessert and savory dishes. It can also be used hot or cold, as a recipe ingredient or on its own, and is delicious spread on a bagel or as a dip.
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Is It Safe to Freeze?
Like most cheeses, ricotta can be frozen to be used later or to extend its shelf life. And while it is perfectly safe to freeze ricotta cheese, the freezing process does have an impact. The taste of the cheese should not be affected; however, its texture will be altered and that is because of ricotta’s high-water content. As the ricotta freezes, its liquid will become ice which will ultimately change the texture once it is thawed, making it drier and crumblier than it was before. The cheese is also vulnerable to ‘freezer burn’ which is when moisture refreezes on the surface of the ricotta and can actually affect the taste.
The outcome of freezing ricotta cheese is a perfectly edible product but one which can then only be used in certain dishes, mainly cooked, and which don’t rely on the original ricotta texture. And how long you keep the frozen ricotta also factors, with a maximum shelf life of around two months to ensure it remains safe to eat.
Best Ways to Freeze Ricotta Cheese
Storing your ricotta correctly before freezing is going to make all the difference to how well your leftover cheese keeps in the chiller. Here’s our guide to the best ways to freeze ricotta cheese:
- Unopened packets: Most ricotta comes packaged in a plastic container with a sealed lid that is freezer safe so if you have bought multi-packs of the cheese, you can freeze your surplus tubs straight in their unbroken packaging.
- Opened ricotta: To prevent your leftover ricotta from spoiling, you will need to transfer the cheese to an airtight, freezer safe container with a secure lid or alternatively, a zip-lock freezer bag. Before you seal the bag or container, stir the cheese with a spoon then gently mop up any surface liquid with kitchen paper towel. This way the cheese will freeze more evenly and can help to reduce any freezer burn.
- Large amounts of ricotta: If you have a substantial amount of leftover ricotta cheese, it is a good idea to separate into smaller portions and wrap each separately in plastic wrap before placing into your airtight container and sealing with the lid. Labelling each portion with the date you have frozen it; means you can use each convenient portion as needed and still know the batch’s best by date.
- When to use: The fresher the ricotta is when it is frozen, the longer its shelf life but it is best to use all your frozen cheese within two months of it being placed into the deep freeze. And for the best results, ensure your freezer’s temperature remains consistent.
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Thawing Your Frozen Ricotta
When it comes to the time to reuse your leftover ricotta, correctly thawing the frozen cheese is essential in getting the very best out of it. The best way to thaw frozen ricotta is in the refrigerator as leaving it out on the counter at room temperature will only allow bacteria to quickly grow. The frozen ricotta will need no more than 5-6 hours in the fridge to thoroughly thaw, depending on the portion size so if you are planning to cook with the cheese then ensure you have plenty of time.
Once thawed, it is likely the cheese will have a film of liquid on the top which will be the separated curds and whey of the ricotta. To reconstruct your thawed-out cheese, simply take a spoon and mix the liquid and cheese back together until the ricotta is creamy again. If there is still some excess liquid, simply drain it away. When mixing the ricotta back together, if you notice any unpleasant odors or a yellow tinge to the cheese, then it is likely it has turned bad and so to be on the safe side, you will need to throw it away.
How to Use Ricotta Once It Has Been Frozen
With its inevitably changed and less creamy texture, due to the loss of some of its fat and liquid, it is best to use your thawed cheese in recipes that don’t require the ricotta to be fresh. Here are just a few ideas on what to do with leftover ricotta after it’s been defrosted:
- As a delicious warm sauce for pasta dishes such as mac and cheese
- Savory pasta fillings, for example, spinach and ricotta ravioli
- A light bechamel sauce for a meaty lasagna
- Baked sweet desserts such as cheesecake and filled donuts
To get the best out of your freshly thawed ricotta, you will need to use it as soon as possible and then throw any leftover away and not reuse it.
Can You Refreeze Cheese?
The straight to the point answer is no. While the thawed cheese can be kept in your fridge for a day or so, it is essential to use it as soon as possible and not refreeze any leftovers.
Refreezing ricotta after it has already been thawed will totally change its texture and ruin the flavor, making it unpleasant to eat. To avoid wasting your leftover ricotta, the best way is to initially freeze it in smaller portions, rather than a single batch and you will then be sure you will always have tasty and edible ricotta at your fingertips.