Ricotta, an Italian staple, is used in more than just lasagna. Ricotta adds richness and body to baked goods. Ricotta comes from the whey that is drained off during the cheese-making process of provolone and mozzarella. While most grocery stores sell ricotta, you can also other cheeses or non-dairy alternatives.
Goat cheese is tangy and has a distinctive flavor, but it is also creamy and has a similar body to ricotta. Queso fresco, a Spanish cheese, is saltier and has a smooth texture, too. Both of these fresh cheeses work well in recipes that use ricotta fresh, such as over fruit and drizzled with honey or in filling recipes, but can be baked as well. Use in equal proportions to ricotta in your recipe.
Ricotta cheese isn't easy on the waistline, so if you're looking for a low-fat, low-calorie alternative, try cottage cheese or fromage blanc instead of ricotta. Cottage cheese is available in low-fat varieties and has a mild flavor. You can find it in small and large curd form, but smaller curd is more similar to ricotta in texture. Fromage blanc has a looser consistency and is more like sour cream or yogurt in texture. Fromage blanc is flavorful and creamy, like ricotta. Use both in equal proportions to ricotta in your recipe.
Silken tofu has a creamy, dairylike texture but is dairy-free. Blend tofu until it's smooth and the lumps are gone, then use in equal proportions to ricotta in your recipe. Tofu does have an eggy taste, but this bakes out. Pureed fruits, such as unspiced applesauce or bananas, can be used to replace the moisture and binding properties of ricotta in recipes like cupcakes, muffins or fillings. Use a ratio of 1-to-1 for pureed fruits and blended tofu.
Whenever you substitute one ingredient for another, you might change the texture and flavor of the final product. If you're substituting ricotta, for example, with a nondairy alternative, the taste and texture won't be the same as if you used ricotta cheese.
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