Homemade Ricotta

Adapted from Italian Grill

About a year ago I found this recipe in a book I’d checked out from the library. I jotted it down and set it aside. It’s been taunting me ever since. If you’ve been following along here, you know that I’ve recently become hung up on hand-crafted ricotta cheese. I finally set out to make a batch of my own. It’s incredibly easy and a great project for kids. Now when they hear the story of Little Miss Muffet, they will know all about curds and whey from first hand experience.

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 1 pint half-and-half
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
  • Pour the milk and half-and-half in a large stainless steel saucepan. Add the salt and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove it from the heat, add the lemon juice, then stir. The mixture will begin to separate into curds (the thick, lumpy parts) and whey (the thin, milky liquid). Allow the saucepan to sit on the stovetop (not on a hot burner) for about 5 minutes to let the curds form.
  • Meanwhile, place a sieve or a colander over a large, deep bowl. Line it with a couple layers of damp cheesecloth. I used a fine mesh sieve for this and found it to be too fine. A standard colander worked much better and allowed the liquid to drain while retaining the curds.
  • Carefully pour the curds and whey over the cheesecloth-lined colander. The mixture is very hot, so be careful and do not let children stand nearby in case of splatters. Allow it to sit, untouched for about 1 hour. If it looks well-drained after 30 minutes or so, you can check it but I like it a bit firmer and the full hour will give you a firmer cheese.
  • Scrape the ricotta into a bowl. You can use it immediately, or cover and refrigerate it for a up to a week.
  • Quick Tips
  • 1. I used organic milk products here. This is a personal preference and I’m sure you could get a similar result with traditional, hormone-laden, sub-par milk products. Just kidding. In truth, we receive our milk products from a local dairy, South Mountain Creamery. I love their products and they are not organic (though their farming practices are similar to those of organic farmers and they do not treat their cows with any growth hormones or unnecessary antibiotics). I’ve prioritized local over organic in this case. The only reason I didn’t use milk from this dairy is that we get our delivery once per week and I didn’t have whole milk or half-and-half on hand from them when I wanted to make this. I’m planning to include it in my next order and I’ll use it for my next batch.
  • 2. I’m sure there is a way to make this recipe using lower-fat dairy products. At some point, I may set out to make “part-skim” ricotta. If so, I’ll update the post here with the directions.
  • UPDATE: Not only did I make this recipe using 2% milk in place of the whole milk, I think it came out better! Yes, the recipe works but there are a few things to note. First, the cheese dried out a bit faster this time. After 20 minutes it was about as dry as it needed to be. Secondly, the curds formed a bit more quickly. I was able to spoon them out into the cheesecloth whereas with the whole milk version I had to pour the entire mess into the cheesecloth and let it drain from there. The taste was terrific and in fact, I will be using lower fat milk for this recipe going forward. Next, I’ll experiment with the souring agent. I hear vinegar works beautifully.
  • 3. Need ideas for what to do with this once you’ve got it? Type “ricotta” into the Weekly Greens search box and you may wonder why it’s taken me so long to get around to making this. Many, many of my recipes include ricotta in some way. This one may very well be the simplest and my favorite. Of course, I also love this one and this one, too.

Preparation time: 10 minutes, plus 1 hour draining time

Cooking time: 10 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): about 2 cups




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