Basket cheese is a type of mild cheese that is made using cow's milk and rennet. This type of cheese is named after the basket that is used to ripen and shape it. Fresh basket cheese is made without salt and typically is eaten soft. Dry basket cheese is lightly salted and has a firmer consistency. As the name implies, this cheese is shaped like a basket.
Although there are different versions of basket cheese throughout the world, the main ingredients normally include rennet, cow's milk and sometimes salt, depending on whether the dry variation or fresh variation is being made. The cheese is formed and shaped inside a basket — usually a wicker basket or another type of woven, wooden basket. Mild in taste, the cheese is often eaten with bruschetta, crackers or pita bread.
In Italy, this cheese is frequently added to Easter dishes and pies, as well as pizza. Basket cheese is commonly added to Italian Easter pies that are made with meat and vegetables. It also can be eaten at breakfast with toast, honey or fruit. In taste, this cheese is very similar to ricotta or cream cheese, but it has a mild flavor that is unlike other cheeses.
When fried or cooked, basket cheese will not melt and will hold its shape. The unsalted, fresh version of this cheese is somewhat like Indian paneer because it does not melt and has a similar consistency. If stored inside tight packaging and refrigerated properly, the cheese normally stays fresh for as long as six months.
Variations of the cheese will vary depending on location, but it is commonly served with olive oil, tomatoes, pasta and nuts. It also can be diced up and added to salads, soups and other recipes that call for a mild, soft cheese. Fruit also pairs well with this soft cheese, and this combination typically is consumed during breakfast. When a dish that calls for basket cheese is being prepared, ricotta, cottage cheese, mozzarella or cream cheese can often be used as a substitution.
Basket cheese can be difficult to find sometimes, especially around Easter, when it is in high demand. Both the dry and the fresh versions might not be carried in a typical grocery store or market, so people who are in search of this cheese might need to visit a specialty shop to purchase it. If it is purchased earlier than it is needed, the cheese will stay fresh for a several months when it is unopened and refrigerated.