5 Healthy, Great-Tasting Recipes Using Ricotta Cheese

Enjoy creamy decadence, plus plenty of protein and calcium, in fresh bruschetta, easy spinach manicotti, tangy Italian cheesecake, and other recipes with ricotta cheese.

March 23, 2010

Green tea dip is a delicious and unexpected use of ricotta (and tea).

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Ricotta is a soft, mild, finely textured cheese that’s made from whey, the liquid that separates from the curd when cheese is produced. (As such, it’s not technically a cheese at all, but a "whey cheese.") Recipes with ricotta cheese gain not only creaminess and sweetness from the ricotta, but also lots of nutrition. Available in whole milk, part-skim, and nonfat versions, ricotta packs plenty of protein and is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, and selenium. It also comes with a good amount of vitamin A, which supports vision and helps form and maintain healthy teeth, skin, bones, and mucous membranes. Whey also contains an amino acid called cysteine that helps produce glutathione, a cancer-fighting antioxidant.

Advertisement

Free Newsletter

When preparing recipes using ricotta cheese, look for Italian ricotta, which has a more prominent, slightly nutty flavor, and a somewhat drier texture than our domestic ricotta. The latter’s moist consistency and more neutral taste make it great for cooked recipes. Fresh ricotta is perishable, so you’ll want to use it quickly; it’ll keep in the refrigerator for a week or so.

Part-skim ricotta, with its lower saturated-fat content, is a great option for dairy-lovers who are watching their weight. In a long-term study of 3,000 people, overweight subjects who consumed low-fat milk and other dairy products were 70 percent less likely to become insulin resistant (a precursor to diabetes) than those who avoided dairy altogether.

Keep reading to find out how ricotta helps your blood pressure, and for recipes for creamy blueberry bruschetta, spinach manicotti, stuffed turkey tenderloin, and more.

Eating part-skim or low-fat ricotta may also help lower your risk of hypertension. Harvard scientists recently found that study subjects who consumed the most low-fat dairy products were 11 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who consumed the least dairy. And while studies are mixed on whether dairy helps with weight loss, it’s clear that the calcium in dairy protects bones and may lower your risk of osteoporosis. Experts generally recommend two to three servings of low-fat dairy every day.

You can enjoy sweet, mild ricotta right out of the package, or use it in these delicious recipes from Rodale’s Recipe Finder. Try ricotta with fresh tomato in bruschetta, in stuffed or layered Italian entrées such as stuffed tenderloin or manicotti, and in creamy desserts.

#1: Blueberry and Ricotta Bruschetta. Creamy ricotta is a fabulous (and addictive) protein treat for breakfast. You can spread it on toasted bruschetta or onto a more portable Ricotta and Fig Breakfast Sandwich. For a fantastic weekend brunch dish, try this ricotta-inspired Mediterranean Breakfast Bake.

#2: Herbed Ricotta Cherry Tomatoes. These stuffed cherry tomatoes are sublime, can’t-eat-just-one appetizers. Same goes for the hot, cheesy Artichoke Dip Arrabiata. And, to make it perfectly clear that not every ricotta recipe comes from Italy, try this Asian-inspired Green Tea Dip.

#3: Easy Spinach Manicotti. Ricotta is essential for classic Italian-inspired dishes like manicotti and eggplant rollatini.

#4: Super-Stuffed Tenderloin. For meatier dinnertime options, try stuffing pork tenderloin or turkey tenderloin with ricotta and herbs.

#5: Citrus Ricotta Cannoli. When it’s time for dessert, ricotta is the key ingredient in cannoli filling and in tangy Italian cheesecake.

Tags: Rodale News