Lasagna, manicotti, ravioli, cannoli and baked ziti. All of these classic Italian dishes feature one key ingredient — ricotta cheese. This healthy cheese option is a popular component in pasta dishes and desserts. For those who like to buy in bulk and are hoping to stock up on this staple ingredient, can you freeze ricotta cheese filling? We highlight the right and wrong whey to store this creamy curd.
After purchase, soft cheeses should be served and consumed in a timely manner. That is because they do not fare well in the freezer due to their high moisture content. Thus, it is not recommended that you freeze ricotta cheese filling.
However, if you choose to not heed this warning, know that significant texture changes will occur. The suitable time frame for freezer storage is two months for large quantities and two weeks for small, individually portioned quantities.
- Ricotta Cheese Composition
- How To Freeze Ricotta Cheese Filling?
- How To Freeze Dishes With Ricotta Cheese Filling?
- Health Benefits Of Ricotta Cheese
- Final Thoughts
- Related Guidelines
Ricotta Cheese Composition
Did you know that ricotta cheese is not actually cheese? “To make ricotta cheese, milk is heated until the curds and whey separate. The curds become the basis for varieties such as mozzarella, while reheating the whey produces the moist, fine grains that traditionally create ricotta”.
This is actually where the name comes from — ricotta literally translates to ‘recooked’ in Italian. This cheese bi-product is made from the milk of cows, goats, sheep and even Italian water buffalo. This soft cheese has also has a high moisture content. Why is all of this important?
High Moisture Content Is Not Ideal For The Freezer
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “ricotta, cottage, and cream cheeses do not freeze well”. The Centers For Dairy Research have determined that “one of the dangers of freezing…cheese is the formation of large ice crystals, which can result in damage to the cheese texture and ultimately impact functionality and sensory acceptance. Therefore, high-moisture cheeses like Ricotta…are damaged when frozen (crumbly texture).”
While ricotta cheese is known for its grainy consistency, it also has a creamy quality to it. However, when frozen, the whey and curd components of the cheese separate, leading to a dry texture when thawed.
Therefore, it is best to try and use up your ricotta cheese filling, rather than freezing it. Thankfully though, these mixtures are made to be cooked. This can make the texture changes less noticeable. Thus, if you want to avoid waste, you can freeze it for short periods of time.
How To Freeze Ricotta Cheese Filling?
As mentioned, soft cheeses are not recommended for freezer storage. This includes ricotta and mozzarella, both of which are normally included ricotta cheese fillings. Nevertheless, if you want to store this product for a short period of time, there are some important steps to take to aid in elongating the shelf life.
Step #1: Remove The Moisture
First, find a large bowl and place a fine mesh strainer over the top of it. Then, lay either a cheese cloth or paper towels in the strainer. Spoon in your container of ricotta cheese and then gently press it with a wooden spoon.
Lastly, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. This will allow gravity to take over and draw out any extra liquid, which is the excess whey, leaving only the curd. This is an important step whether or not you intended to freeze the mixture. Too much liquid can make the filling soggy or watery.
Step #2: Make Your Filling
Next, simply mix your ingredients together. This can include parmesan cheese, spinach, raw eggs, olive oil and spices, all of which do quite well in the freezer. Mozzarella cheese is also readily used. Make sure to look for low moisture varieties to prevent the reintroduction of excess liquids. Additionally, if you are using spinach, make sure to blanch it prior to freezing.
Step #3: Distribute And Freeze The Ricotta Cheese Filling
If you intend to use this mixture for a handful of recipes, it is best to freeze smaller portions. Unfortunately though, the larger the surface area, the less time it will last. Thus, aim to use these smaller sections within two weeks if possible.
Using a silicone muffin tin, portion out your ricotta cheese filling and then freeze overnight. Once frozen, pop out the individual servings and put them in a freezer safe ziplock bag. Remove as much air as possible. Lastly, label the bag with the date of the initial freeze.
For an extra layer of protection you can also wrap the ziplock in a tight layer of aluminum foil. This will help to keep the light out, limiting flavor and texture changes.
2.Ricotta Cheese Log
For a big family meal, you can freeze a large portion of ricotta cheese filling in the shape of a cheese log. Simply roll the mixture into a cylinder shape. Firmly pack the ingredients together. This will limit the introduction of oxygen into the mixture. Then, tightly wrap the cheese log in freezer wrap.
Then, apply a tight layer of aluminum foil on top of the plastic. Finally, place the roll in a freezer safe ziplock bag. Again, remove all of the air and label it with the freeze date. The filling will last up to two months with this method.
The last method is to freeze your ricotta cheese filling in a freezer safe Tupperware container. Simply spoon in your mixture and press it firmly to remove any unwanted air pockets. Additionally, make a point to leave at least 3/4 of an inch of empty space. Why? Foods expand when frozen. If the seal breaks, this will cause the cheese filling to spoil quickly. Label the package and freeze for up to two months.
Step #4: Thaw Ricotta Cheese Filling
When defrosting your ricotta cheese mixture, place it in the refrigerator and allow it to warm up slowly. Expect texture changes from freezing. Therefore, do not allow it to sit for too long.
After a few hours, make a point to bake the mixture in your desired dish. Otherwise, the consistency will continue to degrade. Additionally, do not let this ricotta cheese filling thaw on the counter. This will also cause the mixture to deteriorate and bacteria to emerge. Finally, always discard of the uncooked mixture within a week after defrosting.
How To Freeze Dishes With Ricotta Cheese Filling?
This is actually an ideal way to meal plan and ensure that your ricotta cheese filling does not go to waste. Moreover, this is how companies like Stouffer’s make their lasagna and baked ziti for you to eat!
Simply prepare the dish in a freezer-safe Pyrex or an aluminum foil container. You can choose to leave it uncooked, like the professionals do, or you can freeze a cooked dish to expedite dinner time later.
If you choose the cooked option, ALWAYS allow it to cool before freezing. It is imperative that you do this for less than two hours on the counter. Once this time is running out, you can then transfer it to the refrigerator to finalize the cooling process.
Then, tightly cover the container with heavy duty foil. Label it with the date and use within three months. If you chose the uncooked route, you can cook the dish straight from the freezer.
Conversely, if you precooked it, place the frozen meal in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Then, cook the following day. This is an important step because otherwise the outer layers will heat up quickly and dry out, while the inner portions of the dish won’t cook fully.
Health Benefits Of Ricotta Cheese
For those looking to “promote muscle growth, help lower blood pressure, and reduce high cholesterol levels”, ricotta cheese needs to be in your diet. One of the main ingredients if this calcium and protein packed cheese bi-product is whey protein. This is the same ingredient used to make protein powder!
It is easy to digest and high in calcium, selenium and phosphorus. Additionally, this staple Italian ingredient also features healthy fats — both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids! It also contains less salt and fat compared to other varieties of this dairy dish. When using this in Italian recipes, look for high protein noodles to help you fill up faster, in turn, limiting the unhealthy aspects of these rich dishes.
Frozen ricotta cheese is not the ideal choice since the consistency will quickly diminish at extreme temperatures. However, it will only last one to two weeks in the fridge so this may be your only option to preserve your purchase.
Moreover, no matter which method you choose, always freeze food items consistently at zero degrees Fahrenheit. This will help to inhibit bacteria growth. However, if bacteria is already present in the food, the extreme low temperatures will not kill it. Instead, it will simply cause it to go dormant until you defrost it.
This leads to the last point — while you should expect the texture to change in the freezer, alterations in color and smell are a sign that the filling has gone bad. Unlike other cheeses, ricotta has a similar smell to milk. If there is a sharp odor, make sure to discard the mixture.
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My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nancy do it, no judgment here) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.