Ricotta cheese can be made from sheep, goat, or water buffalo milk, but is most commonly made from cow milk. Ricotta literally means "recooked", as it's made from the leftover cheese products like whey. Its flavor is very mild and slightly sweet, and has a very smooth texture similar to cottage cheese. When it ages, it turns yellow.
Ricotta is often used in Italian dishes as a filler for pasta like ravioli and lasagna, and is also featured in some Italian desserts. It can be used as a substitute for mayonnaise.
The recipe that featured this ingredient was from New Italian Favorites, called Tagatelle with Smashed Paes, Sausage, and Ricotta Cheese. Tagatelle is another word for wide pasta such as fettucini. Honestly, I couldn't find any other pasta labeled directly as tagatelle both in the supermarket or on Google, so I used fettucini as a substitute.
When I opened up the container of whole milk Ricotta cheese, I was surprised at the consistacy. It looked like I had opened a giant container of yogurt, as it was completely smooth. The flavor was pleasant, and I imagine I will use the rest of the large container I bought on some crackers.
The recipe itself was very simple. Cook the pasta, then some sausage meat (I found a package without the casings, very convenient), smash peas, and add the cheese. It turned out to be a lovely combination of flavors all mixed together, and it reminded me of something very homey.
Fettucini with Smashed Peas, Sausage, and Ricotta Cheese (Serves 2)
1/3 lb fettucini
3/4 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/3 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
1/4 lb frozen peas, thawed
1/3 cup whole milk Ricotta cheese
1/3 cup basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon Romano cheese, grated
1/3 teaspoon salt
Bring a pot of salted water to boil.
Add pasta and cook according to directions.
Drain pasta, resserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Heat the olive oil and cook garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant.
Add sausage and cook using a wooden spoon to break it up into bite sized pieces.
When the sausage has browned, about 5 minutes, push it to one side of the pan.
Add the peas tothe pan, and using the spoon, smash the peas.
Turn off the heat and add the ricotta cheese to the pan and stir to combine.
Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat.
Add the pasta cooking water 1/4 cup at a time to make pasta moist, if needed.
Add the basil, Romano, and salt.
Toss gently to combine and serve immediately.