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  • Writer's pictureSu Guillory

The Ancient Tradition of Making Ricotta in Calabria

Planning a trip to Calabria? Love cheese and animals? We can include a trip to a local farm where you'll see cheese being made and meet the animals who produce the milk...just like the sheep and goats in this article!

In the picturesque region of Calabria, Italy, amidst rolling hills, lush vineyards, and olive groves, lies a time-honored tradition deeply ingrained in the fabric of its culinary heritage – the art of ricotta making. Renowned for its simplicity yet profound flavor, ricotta cheese holds a special place in the hearts of Calabrians, serving as a staple ingredient in many of their traditional dishes.

A Little About Ricotta in Calabria

Ricotta, which means "recooked," is a fresh cheese made from the whey left behind after the production of other cheeses, such as pecorino or mozzarella. In Calabria, this process is elevated to an art form, passed down through generations with great pride and reverence.

The process begins with the collection of whey, which is heated until it reaches a precise temperature, allowing the proteins to coagulate. Next, a natural acid, often derived from lemon juice or vinegar, is added to further encourage separation. As the curds begin to form, they are carefully scooped out and placed into molds, where they are left to drain, resulting in the creamy, delicate texture that ricotta is known for.

What sets Calabrian ricotta apart is not just the meticulous process, but also the quality of the ingredients. The region's fertile soil and favorable climate produce rich, flavorful milk from sheep and goats, imbuing the cheese with a distinctive taste that reflects the terroir of the land.

But ricotta making in Calabria is more than just a culinary practice – it is a communal affair, often bringing families and neighbors together. During the cheese-making process, stories are shared, laughter echoes through the air, and bonds are strengthened, creating a sense of belonging and unity within the community.

Once the ricotta is ready, it becomes the star of many beloved Calabrian dishes, from savory to sweet. It's great served warm with bread in a dish called impannata, as well as mixed with other ingredients in pasta. It's also fantastic spread on bread with a few roasted tomatoes on top!

A Piece of History in the Present

While modernization and industrialization have brought changes to many aspects of Italian life, the tradition of ricotta making in Calabria remains steadfast, a testament to the region's unwavering dedication to preserving its cultural heritage.

It's still possible to visit farms where people wake up before dawn to feed and milk the goats and sheep before spending a few hours making ricotta, which they sell to locals and at markets.

In a world where fast-paced lifestyles often overshadow the importance of slowing down and savoring simple pleasures, the art of ricotta making in Calabria serves as a reminder of the beauty found in tradition, community, and the timeless rituals that connect us to our past. So the next time you indulge in a creamy spoonful of ricotta or savor a dish infused with its delicate flavor, take a moment to appreciate the rich history and cultural significance that lies within each bite.


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