Ricotta is not a cheese but a dairy product, i.e. a by-product of sheep, goat or cow’s milk. Indeed, under current regulations, cheese is a product that is obtained from the acid or presamic acid coagulation (caused by adding rennet) of whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk. This does not happen with ricotta, which is instead made by coagulating whey proteins, i.e. the proteins that remain in the liquid (whey) which is separated from the curd during the cheese-making process. The coagulation of whey proteins – albumin and globulin – occurs at a temperature of 80-90°C and is facilitated by adding whey of citric acid or lactic acid.
During cheese production, a part of the fats passes through the meshes of the sieves used to separate the curd from the whey. The fat globules of sheep and goat milk are smaller than those of cow’s milk and tend to remain more easily in the whey, producing a ricotta which is fattier and tastier but higher in calories.
What are the nutritional characteristics?
Ricotta is a dairy product which is often defined as being low in fat. Indeed, its calorie content is fairly reduced compared to other dairy products: a 100-gram portion contains 174 calories. Ricotta consists of 13 % fat, 11% protein and 3% carbohydrate.
Ricotta is a variable food: its macronutrient and calorie content varies greatly according to the method of production and milk used. Furthermore, the method of production influences the fat content of the whey. Ricotta produced from the residual whey in the production of Pecorino Romano is extremely tasty because the fat content of this whey is 2.1% against the 0.30% of the whey of Parmigiano Reggiano, for example.
Ricotta whey proteins are rich in essential amino acids. Whey proteins have a biological value that is even higher than that of the classic cheeses. Ricotta is also a good source of calcium: a 100-gram portion provides about 26% of the daily requirement of this micronutrient. It is also high in vitamins, especially Vitamin A, riboflavin and Vitamin B12.