Ricotta is a delicious and versatile cheese so you might be tempted to buy in bulk. You can use ricotta in sweet dishes as well as savory so it’s always a good ingredient to have on hand. Baking with ricotta can produce succulent pastries and cakes with delicate, subtle flavors – a ricotta lemon cake is always welcome with a cup of tea, or spinach and ricotta pastries for a light lunch. With so many ways to use ricotta, if you see it on offer at the store you’ll be tempted to stock up.
In Italian, ricotta means ‘recooked’. That’s because the process of producing ricotta involves two crucial steps. First, the whey is allowed to ferment at room temperature to increase the acid content. Then this fermented whey is boiled – as the proteins in the ricotta react to the heat they solidify into curds. Straining this mixture produces what we know as ricotta, with its characteristic lumpy texture.
If you’ve got a mountain of ricotta, you’ll be wondering how long it lasts and how you can store it for a long lifespan. Read on to discover the answer to these questions.
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How Long Does Ricotta Cheese Last?
Ricotta cheese is a perishable product and from the moment you bring it home from the store you have only a short period of time to consume your cheese. You might be used to hard Italian cheeses such as pecorino or parmesan stinking up your fridge for months on end – but unlike these products, ricotta has a low-fat content which makes it more susceptible to spoiling.
Any ricotta cheese that you purchase in the store will have a best-by date and although these dates tend to be on the conservative side, they offer a good guide for how long your ricotta will last.
Your ricotta will stay fresh for longer if it’s sealed in its original packaging. The best-by date is likely to be around ten days from the date of purchase, and your ricotta should stay good for two or three days past the best-by date. If two weeks have passed since you purchased your ricotta, it’s time to throw it out.
Once you open your cheese the exposure to the air speeds up the processes that spoil your ricotta. Opened ricotta cheese will last around five days before it starts to go bad, but this will depend on how much it’s aged since you bought it. If you’re opening ricotta cheese after the best-by date on the package, it might only last for three days.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
Homemade ricotta is surprisingly easy to whip up. By bringing milk to simmer on the stove and adding an acid like lemon juice or vinegar, you can simulate the fermentation process that goes into true ricotta. Let the mixture sit before straining the curds, and you’ll have a simple homemade ricotta on your hands.
Homemade ricotta will last for a day or two in the refrigerator before it starts to sour. It’s so easy that you don’t need to do this far in advance – you shouldn’t make more ricotta than you need to use for the recipe at hand.
There’s no easy answer to how long ricotta lasts, but it can certainly go bad. You’re going to need to use your best judgment each time you want to use it. Let’s take a look at how you can tell if ricotta cheese has gone bad.
How To Tell If Ricotta Cheese Has Gone Bad
Some people go crazy for ricotta’s moist and lumpy texture but others find this off-putting. For many people, this texture is associated with food that has started to spoil. In ricotta, it’s perfectly natural.
Don’t mistake good ricotta for something that’s going bad – a lumpy texture and a sheet of liquid at the top of the cheese are normal for this product! The water comes from the separation of liquid and cheese, and you can mix this back in before consuming your ricotta.
However, ricotta is a perishable product so you need to spot the signs that your cheese has gone bad. Let’s take a look at how you can spot rotten ricotta.
The Smell Test
Ricotta is such a mild cheese that it sometimes emits no aroma whatsoever. Taking a deep sniff, you might sense a pleasant, mild and milky aroma. If your cheese starts to pong then this is a sure sign that your ricotta is going bad. As ricotta starts to go bad it will give off a sour scent. If you don’t like what you smell, toss the cheese.
Some cheeses are prized for the mold that’s been cultivated on them and that morish tang of stilton or gorgonzola is all thanks to this hanger on. When it comes to ricotta, however, mold is a sure sign that your cheese has spoiled. Even a small sign of fuzzy blue, grey or brown growth will tell you that your ricotta has passed its best. With hard cheese, it’s possible to excise the moldy area, but in a wet environment like ricotta, mold spores can spread quickly through the whole product. Don’t take the risk with moldy ricotta.
Because ricotta has a short lifespan it can go from edible to spoil quickly and there might not be an obvious scent nor the sign of mold growing in the cheese. For this reason, you can use the best-by date on your cheese to help you err on the side of caution. Never consume ricotta that’s more than around a week beyond its best-by date.
It’s a sad day when you have to throw out some delicious ricotta cheese that you thought might still be good. To maximize the lifespan of your ricotta you need to follow some rules about how to store it correctly.
How To Store Ricotta Cheese
To keep your ricotta cheese fresh it needs to be stored correctly. Otherwise, two weeks can turn into days or even hours before your cheese starts to spoil. Bacteria thrive within a temperature window of 40°F to 140°F, so you should never leave ricotta out on the counter for longer than is necessary.
Your ricotta needs to be refrigerated as soon as you get home from the store. Once you open it, you need to make sure it’s resealed when you return it to the fridge. You can wrap it in plastic or keep it in an airtight container, but it’s important that it isn’t exposed to the air circulating in the fridge.
If you need to keep homemade ricotta on hand for a day or two, the same rules apply – seal it in a Tupperware to protect it from the air and moisture of the refrigerator.
One way to accidentally accelerate your ricotta cheese spoiling is by letting it get contaminated. You don’t want to introduce any other foodstuffs to the container. If you’re scooping ricotta out by the spoonful, only use a clean spoon to extract your ricotta.
If you end up with more ricotta than you can eat, you might be thinking about freezing it.
Can You Freeze It?
Some manufacturers will not recommend that you freeze ricotta, but it can be a viable option for preserving your cheese for longer. Because of the liquid content of ricotta, it’s highly likely that the consistency will be compromised when it comes time to thaw.
If you’re planning on cooking with your ricotta, then this textural change shouldn’t make too much difference. Soups and stews will absorb frozen ricotta, and the texture will be absorbed into the broth.
Before freezing your ricotta you should dab any excess liquid from the cheese with a paper towel. Then place it in an airtight container or wrap it in plastic. Your ricotta should stay good in the freezer for up to six months.
So now you know how long ricotta cheese lasts! There are so many ways to use fresh ricotta, from cheesecakes to pancakes. If you’ve overbought, then you can freeze it for a creamy soup at a later date!