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.
(pasteurized milk is ok, don't use UHT milk -- see Note)
fresh lemon juice
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.
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.
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.
Ricotta is best eaten within a day or two of being made, but will keep up to 1 week.
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.