I’m happy to say, yes! With a little bit of careful preparation, you can freeze your excess ricotta for use another day, saving you from an entire week of cannelloni and cheesy salads.
Ricotta is a soft whey cheese, and soft cheeses are almost always suitable for freezing. They’re famous for holding their flavor well, which is great, but they’re equally known for the noticeable change in texture after defrosting.
Food companies that produce ricotta may even state on the packaging that their cheese should not be frozen, as they want you to experience their product at its finest, but don’t worry. As long as you have realistic expectations about the outcome, you’re totally fine to get freezing.
Ricotta is already a recycled product before it even hits your local supermarket’s shelves. It’s made with milk leftover from the production of other cheeses. The last thing you want to do with all this salvaged cheese is let it go to waste in your fridge.
Why It’s Great to Know How to Freeze Ricotta
It’s especially helpful to know how to freeze ricotta because it has a short shelf life when compared to other cheeses.
This is because the curding process requires an external acid rather than naturally occurring bacteria.
This creates a rich and delicious, creamy cheese, but it leaves it without its own symbiotic culture that combats decay.
Right, let’s look into a step-by-step process for freezing your ricotta...we’re wasting valuable shelf life here!
How to Freeze Ricotta Cheese
If you have unopened ricotta, as long as the packaging is freezer safe, you’re fine to just pop that straight into your freezer, job done.
If your ricotta is open, you should consider the following steps.
The first step in preparing your ricotta for an arctic stint is to place it in a bowl and stir it for ten seconds or so.
This evens out the consistency of the cheese and helps it to freeze uniformly.
The next thing you need to do to prep your cheese for the deep freeze, is to soak up any excessive amounts of water. There’s no need to completely desiccate the ricotta, but soaking up a little bit of water will help maintain their texture upon defrosting.
Simply take three or four paper towels, layer them and place them on a hard surface (a chopping board is perfect). Place the stirred ricotta on the sheets of paper, then make another pad with kitchen towels and use it to press firmly down on the cheese.
Once an adequate amount of moisture has been siphoned away, you’re ready for the next step.
Next, portion out the ricotta.
Having smaller, separated bits of ricotta will prevent clumping, facilitate a more even freeze, and allow them to defrost quicker.
Picking a Container
We recommend using plastic freezer bags for freezing your lovely leftover cheese, but if you need to use a hard container, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Plastic Freezer Bags
If you do have some freezer bags handy, perfect, let’s get cracking.
Wrap your portions tightly in cellophane and place them into the bag.
Press as much air from the bag as possible before tying it firmly shut. If the bag has a seal, that’s even better. Now you’re ready to get that cheese in the freeze.
If you’re using a plastic tub, you can follow the same process, but it may be advisable to double wrap your ricotta portions.
This will keep out as much air as possible, keeping them fresh for longer.
You should always label your frozen foods in one way or another.
The label should express the date the item was frozen and its remaining shelf life.
How to Defrost Ricotta Cheese
As is the case with all frozen foods, the best and safest way to defrost ricotta is in a refrigerator set to 5 degrees, on a dedicated dairy shelf.
Remove however many portions you require from your bag or tub. Without removing the cellophane, place them in a bowl or on a plate and leave them refrigerated until they’re completely thawed.
It’s best to do this overnight as defrosting can take quite a few hours.
Preparing for a Meal
During the defrost, there is likely to be a separation of moisture from the bulk of the cheese.
Once your delicious ricotta has fully recovered from the chill and you’re ready to get cooking, give it another stir.
This will help to moisturize the liquid back into the ricotta and even out the texture.
Factors to Consider Before Freezing
Types of Ricotta
Did you know there are actually 13 different types of ricotta cheese? Some are made entirely from whey (the separated watery substance left over when curd is made). These kinds of ricotta are safer to freeze if they’ve been open for a couple of days.
Other types of ricotta, made entirely from milk or a combination of milk and whey, are likely to spoil at a minutely quicker rate.
So, if you’re milky ricotta has been sitting in your fridge for a little while, the freezing and defrosting process may present too much strain on the enzymes. It’s best to plan a freeze ahead of time when the ricotta is nice and fresh, rather than settle on it as a last resort.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, you can expect a pretty significant change to the texture of your ricotta.
It will be far dryer and it will have a grainy mouthfeel. This is because much of the liquid composition of the cheese has been damaged by ice crystals and melted away.
While freezing ricotta is a great way to extend its short shelf life, there is a limit to its saving power. For the least amount of textural deformation and to ensure a full flavor, we recommend using your ricotta after 2 weeks to a month in the freezer.
Your ricotta will still be edible after up to three months in the freezer; however, after the one month period, you can expect more severe textural degradation and a huge loss in flavor. After three months, it’s not advisable to eat your ricotta.
Your reborn ricotta is now perfect for eating. Unless the label states your ricotta only had one day of shelf life left before you froze it, It should be fine overnight and perfectly usable the next day.
Day number three, however, is your last chance to munch whatever is left. After that, it will likely go off or give you a bad tum.
You should never freeze food more than once. Not only will the constant freezing and thawing promote the build-up of nasty bacteria, the extreme temperatures will have destroyed anything good about the ricotta in the first place.
What Meals Should You Cook?
Due to the textural changes, it’s best to use your defrosted ricotta in cooked meals. The moisture content will rehydrate the cheese and the mixture of ingredients will reduce attention on any textural changes.
Using it in cheese sauces with other fresh cheeses will smooth it out and put that rich, creamy flavor to good use. Cannelloni is the perfect dish to use up that defrosted ricotta straight from the fridge.
Do it Your Whey
So, there you have it, ricotteers: all you’ll ever need to know to keep that scrumptiously soft and smooth cheese from going bad.
Now you can do things at your own pace, and with some careful meal planning, you’ll never have to throw out any ricotta ever again.