Adding cheese is usually the magical touch that brings out delicious flavors in many dishes. And ricotta salata has an interesting flavor that makes it the perfect addition to your salad, pasta, casserole, or gratin.
Thanks to its bold flavor, ricotta salata is usually incorporated into recipes rather than served on its own. But what if you don’t have ricotta salata within reach, or you don’t find its flavor that appealing?
Luckily, we can recommend several tasty options, and each one of them will be an excellent addition to your recipe when you use it as a ricotta salata substitute.
The best substitutes for ricotta salata
As one of the few cheese types originating from Sicily, ricotta salata is a delicious Italian cheese made of sheep milk curd. There are versions of cow milk that you can find today.
It’s basically pressed and dried fresh ricotta, which is not aged, and then sprinkled with salt. As a matter of fact, the word ricotta means “recooked,” but this cheese is different from regular ricotta, which has a softer milky texture. The word salata explains that this cheese is salty.
Because of its hard texture and high salt content, this cheese is perfect for slicing, grating, and crumbling. As a result, it’s often added to southern Italian dishes like pasta alla norma.
But it also elevates the taste of cannelloni, baked ziti, vegetable casseroles, and gratins. It can be served on your cheese board with fruits, nuts, bread, or salami, used as a garnish cheese, or in a bold dessert.
This creamy cheese is used to bring out the flavors of several ingredients instead of being served on its own. It also lasts longer than regular ricotta and is not a melting cheese.
Outside Italy, ricotta salata can be challenging to find, but this doesn’t mean that your dishes won’t taste delicious. As a matter of fact, there are several tasty alternatives that you can use to provide a delicious taste and flavor.
1. Homemade Ricotta Salata
If you can’t find ricotta salata in any store, you can make your own version. The homemade ricotta salata can be eaten fresh or aged for up to 2 months. Of course, the younger the cheese is, the saltier it will be.
When it ages, the cheese turns mellow, allowing you to use it in different recipes. You can make your version using sheep milk or cow milk if it’s readily available.
This is what you need to prepare ricotta salata at home:
- 1 gallon of sheep or cow milk
- 1/2 cup rich cream
- 1 teaspoon of citric acid powder
- 1 tablespoon of cheese salt
Combine the milk with the cream and citric acid powder. Heat the whole mixture on medium-low heat while stirring until you see the curds starting to form.
Strain the curds from the whey and sprinkle a tablespoon of cheese salt. Mix it with your hands, press into a cheese mold after wrapping it with a cheesecloth and pressing it several times.
For one week, you need to unwrap the cheese, rub it with salt, then rewrap it every 12 hours to help intensify the salty flavor. This option works if you want to control the intensity of the ricotta salata in your dishes.
You can use your homemade ricotta salata cheese in pasta dishes, vegetable casseroles, or even desserts if it’s not that salty.
2. Feta Cheese
Feta cheese is a popular substitute for ricotta salata because it’s easier to find. This is a Greek cheese with a crumbly texture and can be made of sheep milk or a mixture of goat and sheep milk.
Feta can be aged for at least 3 months, but the tasty kinds are usually aged for a year. The more it ages, the more peppery it will be. When made totally from sheep milk, it will have a buttery texture like ricotta salata, while goat milk makes it milder and harder.
You can grate feta cheese, add it to your salad, or use it on top of your baked ziti. However, it’s tangier, saltier, and has a stronger flavor. Therefore, we recommend that you only use half the amount unless you want to enjoy an intense cheesy flavor in your recipe.
3. Ricotta Infornata
This is another version of aged ricotta, but it’s baked until the rind is golden brown. It has a crumbly yet creamy center and can be served as an appetizer, grated, or sliced to be incorporated into multiple recipes.
When served, people usually keep the baked brown rind because it enhances the flavor. This cheese has a nutty flavor, making your dishes taste incredibly delicious when added.
4. Ricotta Affumicata
Ricotta affumicata or smoked ricotta salata is not a popular type of cheese, but it can be used to replace ricotta salata in many recipes.
If you have fresh ricotta at home, you can prepare your own ricotta affumicata by placing it in a smoker until it absorbs the scent of the charred wood. You can grate this cheese on top of baked vegetable or pasta dishes or use it in your cheese platter as it goes well with nuts and fruits.
5. Pecorino Romano
This cheese shares the same salty taste as ricotta salata. Pecorino Romano is a fancy Italian cheese made of sheep milk and is usually aged for 8 months but gets sharper and smokier the more it’s aged.
The cheese’s hard texture makes it an excellent ricotta salata substitute for grating. You can grate this cheese on top of your pasta, add it to casseroles, and baked vegetable dishes. It tastes even better when it melts, so it will be a great addition to a baked pasta dish or pizza.
6. Cotija Cheese
Cotija cheese originates in Mexico and is made of cow milk. This white cheese has a hard texture and milky flavor, and it can be grated or sliced to replace ricotta salata in many dishes.
The cheese is typically aged for 100 days, so the flavor intensifies to create the perfect taste when you use it with other ingredients.
Cotija cheese doesn’t melt with heat, but it softens. This is why it’s perfect for slicing and crumbling. You can serve it in a wrap, on top of your salad, or as an appetizer on your cheese platter.
7. Salt-Dried Mizithra
This Greek cheese is made of the leftover whey that remains after the production of other types of cheese. It’s made of goat milk, sheep milk, or both.
The original Mizithra is a fresh cheese that doesn’t age, so it doesn’t taste as salty as ricotta salata. This is why it can be a good ricotta salata alternative if you want your dishes to be too salty.
However, salt-dried Mizithra is an excellent replacement for ricotta salata, thanks to its sharp, tangy flavor. This cheese can be sprinkled on top of your salad or added to red-sauce pasta dishes.
Manouri cheese is another Greek alternative that you can use to replace ricotta salata in the kitchen. It’s made using the whey that remains after the production of feta cheese.
This semi-soft fresh cheese has a slightly tangy flavor with a citrus undertone that makes it an excellent substitute for salty cheese like ricotta salata. It has a crumbly texture like feta cheese, but it’s a lot creamier.
Thanks to its milder taste, manouri cheese can replace ricotta salata in multiple recipes, including pasta dishes, salads, pizzas, and baked casseroles. It also goes well with nuts and fruits on your antipasto if you’re looking for a cheese with a milder taste.
9. Low Curd Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese can be labeled as low-curd or large-curd. Low-curd cottage cheese is a smooth cow-milk cheese with a creamy texture. It’s not as salty as ricotta salata, but it will work for you if you need a substitute with a milder flavor.
The intensity of the flavor depends on the fat content of the cheese. High-fat cottage cheese tastes milkier and will make your baked dishes taste richer.
You can use cottage cheese in a cheese platter because its fresh taste goes well with fruits, crackers, and nuts.
10. Queso Fresco
This Mexican cheese is made of cow milk or a mixture of cow and goat milk. It’s a mild, fresh cheese with a soft milky texture and can be easily crumbled.
It has the right texture to replace ricotta salata, but it will work for you if you need an option that isn’t as salty. It’s usually used to top baked dishes and salads. It can also be served with toast or crackers.
Tofu is a great non-dairy alternative that will work for you if you want to try a recipe that calls for ricotta salata. It’s made of soy milk and absorbs the flavors of other ingredients, so it will be a good substitute to add to your pasta dishes and salads.
To enjoy the taste, you need to squeeze tofu until it has drained well, so it can resemble the consistency of ricotta salata. You also need to add more salt and other seasonings to give your dish a little edge.
12. Cashew Cheese
Different types of nut cheese can be used as non-dairy substitutes for ricotta salata. For example, Cashew cheese provides a mild yet delicious flavor that can improve the taste of your baked dishes.
This is what you need to prepare cashew cheese at home:
- 2 cups of unsalted soaked cashew
- ¾ cups of water
- ½ cup of yeast
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder or any other seasoning.
Blend all the ingredients until smooth, then taste the cheese and add more salt or seasonings if needed. Cashew cheese can be sliced and served with crackers, grated on a pasta dish, or incorporated into several recipes that call for the use of ricotta salata.
How to choose a ricotta salata substitute
Ricotta salata is a bold cheese with a strong flavor. This means that when you’re looking for a good substitute, you need to choose something that would complement the other ingredients in your dish while delivering the same richness.
Your homemade ricotta salata can be an excellent choice since you can control how salty the cheese will be. Feta cheese is another popular ricotta salata alternative, despite having a stronger flavor.
Ricotta Infornata and Ricotta Affumicata add unique flavors to your recipes while maintaining the texture of ricotta salata. Both types of cheese can be sliced, crumbled, and grated.
Pecorino Romano has a different flavor, but it’s as salty as ricotta salata, so it works as a shaved ricotta salata substitute on top of your pizza and pasta.
Cotija and dried mizithra cheese types have a similar texture to ricotta salata, and can replace it in salads and sandwiches.
Manouri, low curd cottage cheese, and queso fresco are different ricotta salata substitutes that work in several recipes if you’re looking for a milder taste and less intense flavor.
If you’re looking for non-dairy alternatives, we recommend that you give tofu or cashew cheese a try.