Fresh ricotta is my latest food obsession. It only requires a few ingredients and is very quick and easy to make. Once you have seen how simple it is to achieve a rich and creamy ricotta at home (unlike store-bought which tends to be dry and “rubbery”) you will find no reason to buy ricotta ever again; unless you live in Italy of course! :-)
Traditional ricotta is made from the milk whey leftover from making cheese (after the milk curds are separated to make the cheese, the leftover liquid is known as “whey”). Italian ricotta is usually made from the whey of cow, goat, sheep, or water buffalo’s milk. Ricotta means “recooked” in Italian, as it is not really a cheese, but the recooked whey leftover from making cheese. At home, you can simply use milk (and cream) and a little lemon juice (and/or vinegar) to make a delicious ricotta in less than 1 hour.
I recently returned from Italy where I had creamy, luscious, fresh ricotta. Upon returning to the US, I had what I called “gastronomic depression”… my stomach was very sad as it realized it had to adjust to the lack of amazing Italian flavors and foods of my recent trip to Milan and Modena.
The day after I returned, I started researching how to make ricotta and found, to my surprise, it was amazingly simple! I was so happy! Ignoring my jet lag, I ran to buy some cheesecloth and a cooking thermometer to start experimenting right away…
About this recipe
I tried (many) different recipes and proportions of milk, cream, lemon juice and vinegar to make my ricotta; I found mixing equal amounts of cider vinegar and lemon juice creates a more delicate flavor than just using one or the other. My favorite combination is to use whole cow’s milk and a little bit of cream; I have also tried with reduced fat (2%) cow’s milk with good results. Some natural dairy fat is necessary for the creamier texture and richer flavor to be achieved. I didn’t try making it with skim cow’s milk or goat milk, nor did I try it with lime juice instead of lemon juice. I would suggest using the best quality of milk available, as that is the main ingredient and the one you will taste (I use organic local farm’s milk and cream).
You can spread the ricotta on fresh bread (with honey or olive oil if you wish) or use it for any recipe that calls for ricotta such as pasta filling or torta di ricotta (recipes coming soon). The leftover liquid after straining the ricotta is buttermilk, which you can use for many other recipes including breads and cakes (in substitution for water or milk in the recipe).
Yields approx 2 cups (approx 400-440g) of ricotta (depending how long ricotta is strained) and 3 cups of buttermilk.
Prep time: 2 min
Cook time: 10 min
Inactive cooking time: 40-60 min (straining)
Cooking temp: 175°F/80°C
- 4 1/2 cups (1 L) organic whole cow’s milk (see above for other types of milk)
- 1 cup (250ml) heavy whipping cream (approx 30-36% milk fat) (click here for information on different types of creams)
- 1 TBL freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 TBL organic filtered apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp coarse salt
- Cheesecloth* (click here for care and cleaning tips)
- Cooking thermometer* for liquids/candy/deep frying (or follow directions below)
- Non-reactive pan (made of ceramic or stainless steel). Do not use an aluminum pan as the liquid will not curdle (and you won’t have any ricotta). If you only have aluminum pans, follow recipe up to the point of adding the lemon juice/vinegar mixture. Once liquid has reached desired temperature, pour liquid into a glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowl and THEN add the lemon juice/vinegar mixture. Continue as indicated below.
*Note: You can find cheesecloth and cooking thermometer in most house goods stores and supermarkets. If you don’t have a cheesecloth, a heavy-duty paper towel can be used in its place (once done, be careful not to rip the wet paper towel when removing the ricotta).
- Set up the thermometer to the side of the pan (if using one as shown in the picture). Pour milk, cream, and salt into non-reactive pan and stir constantly over medium-high heat, until the thermometer reads 175°F/80°C.
- Remove pan from heat and add lemon/vinegar mixture. Stir only a couple of times and let liquid rest for 10 minutes. You will then see the milk begin to curdle right away.
- Set up a sieve over a bowl and cover the sieve with the cheesecloth. Slowly pour liquid over the cheesecloth. Depending how much you make, either use a large sieve or set up two separate stations to make the ricotta.
- Let it rest for approximately 30-40min or up to 1hr depending how soft you want the consistency to be. You can leave it longer if you would like firmer ricotta.
- Note: Ricotta will continue to firm after it cools. Do not overstrain or ricotta will be dry. IF you overstrain, and the ricotta becomes a little “drier” than you would like, you can take a teaspoon or two of the strained liquid and slowly add it to the ricotta (add more until you achieve desired consistency).
- Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 1 week (best to consume within 4-5 days for freshest flavor).
I like having fresh ricotta so much, I’ve been making it every week since I returned from Italy over a month ago! It has become a staple item in my kitchen. I hope you make it soon, as I know you too will enjoy it!