A cheese from Sicily cooked three times

Tricotta takes Ricotta Cheese and cooks it a third time for a special Sicilian treat.

Tricotta origin story

Tricotta for sale in Sicily (photo: Karen Campopiano)

Ricotta Cheese is made from whey, the protein-rich liquid left over from the cheese making process. Most of the Ricotta Cheese consumed in the United States is made from cow’s milk. But, in Sicily, Ricotta is typically made from sheep’s milk.

To make Ricotta Cheese, the whey from the cheesemaking process is cooked a second time (Ricotta means recooked in Italian). The curds are scooped from the cooking vessel and placed in small basket and allowed to drain.

The fresh Ricotta Cheese is used to stuff pasta or as a layer in lasagna. It’s also used as a pizza topping, in desserts like cheesecake, or to fill cannoli. You can even use Ricotta to make gelato or gnocci.

Ricotta Cheese can also be aged to make Ricotta Salata. This version is great in salads and with citrus or nuts.

Less common is Tricotta (aka Ricotta Infornata or Ricotta al forno). A specialty of Sicily and Sardinia, Ricotta is cooked a third time, this time in the oven. A golden brown crust forms on the cheese, making this a delightful addition to your cheese plate or dessert tray.

Where to get Tricotta

Sandwich maker in Ortigia, Sicily. Note the Tricotta up front (video: Karen Campopiano)

There are a few places online that offer Tricotta, mostly under the name Ricotta Infornata. But, Tricotta is best when it is fresh.

Our favorite spot is Caseificio Borderi at the outdoor market in Ortigia, Sicily. The sandwich maker at this shop steals the show and has become a YouTube celebrity. Definitely get a sandwich, but also be sure to get some Tricotta, usually on display at the front of the table.

How to make Tricotta

If you’re not going to be in Sicily in the near future, it’s easy to make Tricotta at home.

Take 16 oz. of fresh Ricotta and drain in the fridge for a full day and as long as a day and a half using a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer. You’re trying to remove as much liquid as possible from the cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the drained Ricotta on a baking dish lined with parchment paper, bay leaves, rosemary, or another leafy herb like sage or thyme. Top the cheese with a pinch of salt and pepper and pour a tablespoon of olive oil over the top.

Bake until a nice brown crust forms, about 60 to 90 minutes. Cool and remove from the baking dish. Serve with slices of oranges, grapefruit, and pears along with walnuts, pecans, and pistachios.

Author: Brent