Make Your Own Ricotta


Little Miss Muppet was onto a good thing. I didn’t know just how good until I sampled curds and whey for myself after eyeballing this post about how to make ricotta (the curds part of the equation). I made a batch. Then another. Followed by a double batch. And then I made smoothies with the leftover whey from all that cheese making. It seemed wrong to keep all this goodness to myself, so I taught the kids in my cooking class to make ricotta. And now here I am telling you.

If I’m not careful, I’ll be slapped with a lawsuit by Sorrento or Polly-O or Calabro for imploring the public at large to make, not buy, ricotta.

Since I’m risking my life savings here, let me tell you a few reasons why you might want to make ricotta.

1. Eating still-warm, just-made fresh cheese on toasted bread topped with olive oil and coarse salt is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It heals everything from heartache to hot flashes. Really.

2.. It’s crazy easy. Easier than figuring out which brand of ricotta to buy in the market.

3. It’s fun kitchen science. You and your kids can geek out over a pot of hot milk.

4. It just may convert a ricotta hater to a ricotta liker or a ricotta liker to a ricotta lover. This happened before my very eyes.Twice.

Don’t be scared. All that’s involved is boiling milk, adding lemon juice, waiting for curds and whey to separate, and straining.

You might be surprised that a whole quart of milk only makes about one cup of ricotta, which is why you need to hang onto the precious whey that’s left behind. It can sub in for water when making oatmeal, rice, and other grains. It also makes a tangy, low-calorie, low-fat vehicle for whirling up smoothies.

HOMEMADE RICOTTA

Ricotta is no gorgonzola or gruyere. It won't knock you over with flavor, but its subtlety and softness do appeal to the senses. I use a small amount of salt when cooking, allowing the ricotta and whey to be suitable for both sweet and savory dishes. You can always top your finished ricotta with more salt to brighten the flavor just before serving. A drizzle of olive oil or honey, fresh chopped chives or thyme all pair beautifully with ricotta. Strawberries or slow-roasted cherry tomatoes never hurt, either.

Ingredients

  • 1 quart whole milk (pasteurized milk is ok, don't use UHT milk -- see Note)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Set over medium-high heat and heat until the milk is just shy of a boil, stirring occasionally. Don't worry if it starts to boil a little. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and salt. Stir gently a couple of times and watch the curds separate from the whey. Set aside for about 5 minutes.
  2. Lay a piece of cheesecloth or a fine tea towel into a strainer set inside a large bowl. Pour the curds and whey into the cheesecloth and allow the liquid to drain for a few minutes. Lift the cheesecloth up by the edges, allowing any remaining liquid to strain out. I like a soft, moist curd so I refrain from squeezing the cloth too much. For dryer ricotta, squeeze away.
  3. Transfer ricotta to a bowl and use immediately or cover and store in the refrigerator. Pour leftover whey into a pitcher and keep in the fridge.
  4. Ricotta is best eaten within a day or two of being made, but will keep up to 1 week.

Recipe Notes

UHT refers to Ultra High Temperature pasteurization, whereby milk is heated to a much higher temperature than traditional pasteurization. This process prevents the curds and whey from separating.

Inspired by the Edible Schoolyard and Yummy Supper.

Comments

03.01.2014 at 9:11 AM #

erin @ yummy supper

3 cheers for homemade ricotta!! xoxo E

03.01.2014 at 9:11 AM #

katiemorford

Thanks for the inspiration, Erin!

03.01.2014 at 10:09 AM #

Spring

Perfect rainy day activity! Yum! Can’t wait to try.

03.01.2014 at 10:09 AM #

katiemorford

Your girls will love it!

03.01.2014 at 1:43 PM #

Pam H

Katie,
What is UHT milk?
-Pam H

03.01.2014 at 1:43 PM #

katiemorford

That refers to Ultra High Temperature pasteurization whereby the milk is heated much higher than normal pasteurization. It’s the milk you find in aseptic packages, common especially in Europe. UHT is also used for some refrigerated milks as well. My understanding is that the curds and whey won’t separate properly with UHT milk.

03.01.2014 at 7:57 PM #

Pam H (the other one)

This looks like fun and delicious too. Will try it soon, but first, a series of related dumb questions. I assume the curds are the part that is left in the cheesecloth that we will squeeze to make the ricotta. What is the whey and is it in the liquid?

Thanks!

Pam H

03.01.2014 at 7:57 PM #

katiemorford

No dumb questions. When acid (in this case, lemon juice) is added to warm milk, it causes the milk to separate into solids (the curd) and liquid (the whey). You pour all of it into your cheese cloth and the whey will drain into the bowl. The curds are your ricotta and the whey is the liquid to use for making smoothies or watering your plants. Hope that clarifies things.

03.02.2014 at 12:18 AM #

Courtney

Can’t wait to try this! We lived in Italy for a few years….have not been able to buy ricotta (other than fresh) since then, Italy ruined us with it’s delicious, creamy ricotta. It’s so good there you can eat it with a spoon!

03.02.2014 at 12:18 AM #

katiemorford

Isn’t everything better in Italy? I imagine that cream might be added to the milk in some of that gorgeous ricotta in Italy…which you can do here for a richer cheese.

03.02.2014 at 9:55 AM #

Kate @ ¡Hola! Jalapeño

Homemade ricotta is THE BEST! I never thought about using the whey though…what a good idea!

03.02.2014 at 9:55 AM #

katiemorford

Yes, save that whey! It’s a little funky looking, but has an appealing tang.

03.02.2014 at 11:26 PM #

Laurie-Ann

I’ve been making paneer cheese using the same ingredients and method except for leaving it to drain about an hour in the cheesecloth. I never realized that if would be ricotta if I used it without draining it. I can’t wait to try it! And, I can recommend hanging the cheesecloth to drain and cutting into cubes for any dish calling for paneer.

03.02.2014 at 11:26 PM #

katiemorford

Thanks Laurie Ann. I love paneer, so will try that too!

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