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Cooking with Cottage Cheese

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2009

Does the type of cottage cheese make a difference in cooked applications?

Our Baked Ziti recipe calls for whole-milk cottage cheese, which tasters preferred over the more traditional choice, ricotta. If all you have on hand is 1 percent or nonfat cottage cheese, does it make a difference in this or other cooked applications?

We prepared three different batches of three recipes—our Baked Ziti; spinach lasagna bound with a cottage cheese-and-egg mixture; and low-fat cheesecake made with a blend of cream cheese and cottage cheese—using whole-milk, 1 percent, and nonfat cottage cheese. Tasters detected almost no difference in the cheesecakes, though the lower-fat cakes tended to set a little more firmly. Ziti and lasagna were a different story. Both the whole-milk and 1 percent cottage cheeses produced acceptable results, but the nonfat cottage cheese broke as the pasta baked, leaving a grainy, watery slick at the bottom of the dish. Our advice? When cooking with cottage cheese, skip the nonfat variety.