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Ricotta Salata is one of Italy's most unusual and least understood sheep's milk cheeses. The milk curds and whey used to make this cheese are pressed and dried even before the cheese is aged, giving this pure white cheese a dense but slightly spongy texture and a salty, milky flavor -- like a dry Italian feta.

Despite its name, this is not ricotta as Americans have come to know ricotta. In Italian, ricotta simply means ""recooked."" It is a cheese-making process rather than a specific cheese. This ricotta is also a salata, or ""salted,"" cheese. Sicily, because of its abundance of sheep, is justifiably famous for its sheep's milk cheeses.

Use ricotta salata to dice into salads of all kinds--particularly pasta salads and spinach salads, or serve with fresh or grilled vegetables, beans, and fruit. Its firm texture makes it perfect for tossing. Also try ricotta salata crumbled over garlicky sauteed vegetables, tomato-based sauces and bean dishes.