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soft whey cheese

Popular across Italy, ricotta (literally 'recooked') isn't a cheese by definition—more of a cheese by-product, made from the whey. Its mild, slightly sweet taste earns it a role in many pasta dishes—lasagna, ravioli and tortellini, in calzone pizza—and in desserts (cheesecake, Sicilian cassata and cannoli).

Ricotta romana from Lazio and Ricotta di Bufala Campana from Campania, Lazio, Abruzzo and Molise have DOP status. Some unusual variants include smoked or salted ricotta, ricotta affumicata and ricotta salata.

Ricotta di pecora comes from sheep; ricotta affumicata di Mammola is an unusual, mushroom-shaped goat ricotta from Calabria.

There's also ricotta infornata, or ricotta doppio forno, baked ricotta from Sicily and Sardinia, and Sardinia's ricotta mustia, smoked for five hours in smouldering aromatic herbs.

Ricotta forte from central Puglia and the Basilicata is aged in jars and eaten on bruschetta or pizza. A similar cheese from the same area is ricotta marzotica.

Ricotta forte (or ricotta scanta) is made from the ricotta leftovers, aged for a year until it turns into a pungent brownish paste, spread on toast or used in pasta dishes (popular in Lecce)

Ricottina the low=fat version comes in a little basket, and is sometimes grilled on pizza.

Affumicata, forte, infornata and mustia are in the Ark of Taste.

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: Micniosi