Are you getting ready to make an American-style lasagna with ricotta cheese? If you are wondering how much ricotta to use to achieve those perfect creamy layers, we have the answer. We've compared lots of notes and come up with some easy-to-follow directions. It turns out there is a great method for determining how much ricotta cheese you should use.
You should use enough ricotta cheese to fully cover each consecutive level of noodles with a layer of ricotta. Each cheese layer should be at least a centimeter, or almost half an inch, thick. For best results, do not exceed layers of cheese greater than a quarter of an inch. Too much cheese will throw off the balance of the dish.
Do you want to know more about the layering of lasagna and the right proportion of ricotta? Then be sure to keep reading. We'll discuss this and more.
All About Ricotta And Your Lasagna
Find out all you need to know about ricotta below.
Recipes For Disaster
Another reason to be precise with your cheese layer is that ricotta is a moisture heavy cheese. If the cheese layer is too thick, the lasagna has a higher chance of becoming soupy when baked. The right cheese in the right proportion can make all the difference.
There are many ways to make mediocre lasagna. Granted, mediocre lasagna is still pretty great. Still, we have compiled some advice from chefs to help you avoid some of the pitfalls related to the cheese layer in particular. Here are their words of wisdom for beginning your expedition into the world of layered pasta.
Recipes For Success
There are of course thousands of lasagna recipes that call for all sorts of ingredients. Lasagnas can vary in size both due to pan size as well as the layer count. However, if you are making a recipe that calls for ricotta cheese, there are some measures that you can take to ensure that your pasta is perfect when you plate it.
Drain Your Ricotta
If you have a recipe that gives you a pan size and a layer count, you likely also have a quantity of cheese that you need to purchase to achieve the layers. Try squeezing out the excess moisture in the cheese to prevent a soupy, sloppy mess in your finished product.
Before adding any of the other ingredients your recipe calls for in the cheese mixture, drain the cheese. This can be accomplished by first placing the cheese in cheesecloth like this one below on Amazon. Let it cool in a bowl in the refrigerator.
Check out this cheesecloth on Amazon.
When chilled, grasp the cloth-covered cheese and gently but firmly squeeze out any excess water. Discard the water, and then proceed as directed with the recipe.
Ripen Your Ricotta
If you are looking to make some extra dry ricotta, add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and a teaspoon of salt to the cheese before you place it in the cheesecloth in the fridge. This will ripen the cheese and draw out more moisture when you go to squeeze it after it has chilled.
Ricotta that has been ripened in this way provides a little more of a bite, or acidic tang, to the lasagna. Extra tang can either add to or detract from the finished product. The traditional tomato-based lasagna sauce is usually already acidic enough. If you ripen your cheese this way, there are some things you can do to make it taste less acidic:
- The best method for countering acidity in food is to add sugar. This is not a good idea for a lasagna. However, making something creamier and a little saltier will often do just as well for reducing the perceived amount of acid.
- Adding some grated parmesan cheese to your ripened ricotta accomplishes both of these things beautifully. Parmesan has the added benefit of also being a very dry cheese, which will further reduce the water content of the overall cheese mixture.
- Some dried parsley flakes can also be added to reduce excess moisture in the cheese mixture. Parsley flakes also look appealing without doing much to change the flavor profile of the finished product.
If you've followed this advice so far, you might find yourself with a new question.
How Do You Spread Ricotta In A Lasagna?
Once you have drained your ricotta and added the other ingredients your recipe calls for, what's next? You might find that you are having a difficult time spreading the cheese evenly over the noodles. Depending on what you have already added to the cheese, there are some simple ways to make the process easier.
Wait a minute. If we just spent all of that time removing the liquid, why are we making it wet again? Good question. The kind of moisture in the cheese matters. When you drain the water off ricotta, you are draining primarily just that, water. Eggs, however, are liquid that is packed full of proteins. An average large egg contains about 7 or 8 grams of protein per just 4 tablespoons of liquid.
Before being cooked, egg proteins are loose and jellylike. When heated, they become rigid and relatively immovable. This property of eggs allows you to easily spread the ricotta mixture over your noodles while you are layering. In the baked product, all of that liquid becomes more solid leading to a well-bound and soup-free lasagna.
Many recipes already call for adding eggs to the ricotta filling before spreading it over the noodles. However, some do not. If you have not added an egg or two already, putting one in will make your mixture much easier to spread.
Egg Allergic Alternative
What do you do if you can't add eggs because someone is allergic to them? In this case, take a note from an Italian recipe book and mix up a quick béchamel sauce. Béchamel, or white sauce, is a classic component of Italian lasagna though it is less common in the American version. If you don't want to make it yourself, you might order something like this white sauce.
See this white sauce on Amazon.
Add about 1/2 cup béchamel sauce per egg you are replacing to the ricotta mixture and you will find it much easier to spread. Though less common in the states, lots of more classic lasagna recipes recommend adding a béchamel sauce. Many versions call for it even if you are going to add eggs and ricotta. Though more labor-intensive than just whisking in an egg, the effort of making a white sauce is well worth it. Not only will it spread better but it will taste fantastic in the finished dish.
Use A Piping Bag
What if you have neither the time nor the inclination to make a white sauce? What if you don't like the thought of eggs in your cheese layer? Also, what if you have no time to chill and drain your cheese, and you don't want to add anything else to it? No sweat.
You can make your simple ricotta easily spreadable by warming it for 30-45 seconds in the microwave and then placing it in a piping bag with a ribbon pastry tip. By using this technique, you can achieve nearly perfect and even coverage with even the most uncooperative cheese.
Check out these piping bags on Amazon.
How Do You Keep Ricotta Cheese Creamy In Lasagna?
Many of the approaches we have already discussed will accomplish just that. You can hardly go wrong with parmesan or béchamel sauce when it comes to producing a creamy cheesy layer. Some recipes might call for adding condensed soup. Cream of mushroom or cream of chicken will certainly do the job, though they will alter the flavor profile somewhat.
If you are looking for that extra creamy layer with a bit of funk, add some soft-ripened brie cheese or Camembert. You won't regret it!
Which Is Better In Lasagna: Ricotta Or Cottage Cheese?
You can definitely use cottage cheese in place of ricotta cheese in most lasagna recipes. See an example below. Be aware that cottage cheese has even more liquid to it than ricotta. Most recipes that call for ricotta do so because it is somewhat drier and creamier and leads to a better end result after baking.
What Is The Proper Way To Layer Lasagna?
Most chefs agree that a proper lasagna has at a minimum three complete layers. A complete layer is composed of a layer of meat and sauce (or sauce and vegetables for you non-meat eaters), noodles, and ricotta filling. Start by scooping some sauce into the bottom of the pan. Layer your noodles in next, touching lengthwise or overlapping slightly to keep the layers distinct. Next, evenly spread a layer of ricotta filling over the noodles.
Repeat the process by beginning again with another layer of sauce and meat or sauce and veggies. Once you have achieved your desired number of layers, cover the whole lasagna in a layer of mozzarella cheese, fresh or shredded.
If you want to know even more about layering your lasagna, head on over to this article: How Many Layers Should a Lasagna Be?
Almost any lasagna is great no matter which way you slice it. Even if it's a little soupy or the balance of cream to acid is a little off, most likely every bite of it will get eaten. It is a classic recipe that is just that good.
When all is said and done, it doesn't have to be exactly perfect. After all, it's just a big pan of sauce and cheese and noodles. What's not to love? Hopefully, though, you now have a few more things to draw on when you set to making that amazing meal. Get the cheese ratio and moisture right, and the rest of the dish will sing. Good luck and Bon Appetit!