How To Make Homemade Ricotta Cheese Recipe

How To Make Homemade Ricotta Cheese Recipe
How To Make Homemade Ricotta Cheese Recipe | https://saltandwind.com We should really call this how to make homemade ricotta cheese with a caveat.  That's because this is and isn't ricotta cheese. You see, auth...
Cuisine
Ingredients
4
Hands-On Time
30 minutes
Total Time
1 hour, 30 minutes
Yield
-
Servings
2 to 4
Season
How To Make Homemade Ricotta Cheese Recipe | https://saltandwind.com
Skill
Beginner
Course
Appetizer, Breakfast, Side, Snack
Cuisine
Italian
Ingredients
4
Hands-On Time
30 minutes
Total Time
1 hour, 30 minutes
Yield
-
Servings
2 to 4
Diet
Gluten-Free, Vegetarian
How To Make Homemade Ricotta Cheese Recipe | https://saltandwind.com

We should really call this how to make homemade ricotta cheese with a caveat. 

That's because this is and isn't ricotta cheese. You see, authentic ricotta is made by reheating and cooking the whey that results from cheesemaking. But, frankly, most of us home cooks don't have whey on hand. And it feels silly to make a batch of cheese just to make ricotta. 

Of course, if you're already making homemade cheese and have whey leftover, by all means, try your hand at the traditional method. But for every other time, turn to this recipe that uses a workaround technique involving nothing more than cream, milk, and acid and some time in the oven. 

What Is Ricotta?

To get technical, ricotta is not cheese but actually a dairy byproduct because it is recooked (or "ricotta") whey. However, in the United States, it's commonly called cheese. 

Some version of ricotta dates back to Roman times and is believed to have first originated in Sicily (where it was likely made with sheep or goat milk). The Italian kitchen has long operated on the premise that you shouldn't waste any ingredient, and that mentality resulted in this "cheese." 

Closeup of woman holding drained ricotta cheese

How To Make Traditional Ricotta Cheese

Before we get into this homemade ricotta technique, let's go over how ricotta is traditionally made. You can read a lot in this Serious Eats article (where we first came across the ingenious oven technique we use in this recipe). But, to sum it up, ricotta came about as a way to use the watery whey that separates from the curds during cheesemaking. 

If you're making it with a whey base (i.e., the traditional method), you start by heading milk to pasteurize it. Then you'd add something (traditionally cow rennet enzymes) to acidify and coagulate the mixture. Finally, you'd remove the curds and let them drain. Our homemade ricotta recipe uses a similar technique, except no whey is involved.

Why Make Homemade Ricotta?

Unless you're fortunate enough to live near a top-quality cheese shop or deli that makes its own ricotta or sells a top-notch version like the Bellwether Farms, you're probably buying crappy ricotta. As in a rubbery, tasteless, overly-manipulated product that is unappealing. 

The taste of great ricotta will be fresh, sweet, creamy, and have a pleasantly uneven texture that adds a lot. And, making homemade ricotta is pretty simple. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to make it regularly without too much thought. 

Easy Homemade Ricotta

This technique is essentially the same as that you'd use for making Farmer's Cheese, with two exceptions. First, heavy cream is added to provide richness, and, second, the mixture is cooked in the oven for about 30 minutes to give it that distinct "cooked" flavor that authentic ricotta has. 

Tools for this recipe

Before you get started with this recipe, make sure you have the following tools on hand (in addition to measuring cups and a spatula):

Tips To Make This Recipe

This recipe can be scaled up or down as desired. 

  • Don't Use Ultra-Pasteurized Milk: You can use pasteurized milk, homogenized milk, and/or cream-line milk, but do not use ultra-pasteurized milk, as it will not work. 
  • Switch The Milk: Feel free to try it out with goat, sheep, or buffalo milk but just make sure to heat it's pasteurized or, if you get it raw, to heat it adequately to make it safe to use.
  • Use Low Fat Milk: Low-fat milk is a-ok to use, but it will result in a cheese that tastes leaner.
  • Bake Until Curds Are Separate: Using the oven to make hte cheese means a "less-is-more" approach is critical. Resist the urge to stir the mixture and give it time (up to 35 minutes in the oven, if necessary) to set.
  • Choose Your Acid: Distilled white vinegar creates the most neutral flavor, while lemon juice adds just a touch of lemony flavor; that can be good in some applications (like, say, if you're dolloping the ricotta on pancakes) but may not be desirable in others. 
  • SaltI prefer not to add salt since the ricotta can always be seasoned later, but feel free to add a pinch if you like.
  • Don't Make Too Much: Ricotta is a fresh product, so it should be eaten within 2 to 3 days of being made. This recipe will make about 1/4 pound of ricotta, so scale up if you need more for making recipes.
  • Don't Ditch The Whey: The whey is a powerhouse liquid that's full of good bacteria. Use it in smoothies, marinate meats, or make traditional ricotta.
  • Dive Deeper Into Cheesemaking: If cheesemaking interests you, you'll want to get this classic cookbook that has all sorts of recipes: The Cheese Lover's Cookbook and Guide: Over 150 Recipes with Instructions on How to Buy, Store, and Serve All Your Favorite Cheeses.

What To Make With Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta can be heated without melting, making it an excellent option for topping pizza, filled pasta like ravioli, as well as in classic Sicilian desserts like cannoli and cassata cake.

We use ricotta cheese in all sorts of dishes like pizza with caramelized onions and spinach, twist on Classic Caprese Salad where you use ricotta instead of burrata or buffalo milk mozzarella, appetizer such as these Gougeres Tea Sandwiches. And we love having it the traditional Italian way: for breakfast topped with seasonal fruit, honey, and some toasted nuts. 

Here are a few other recipes you could make with this fresh ricotta:

Okay, now it's time to stock up your pantry with all the essential Italian ingredients, then try your hand at making this, and then share your creation with us by tagging @saltandwind and #swsociety on social!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

    or distilled white vinegar

Instructions

Prepare The Colander: Line a colander, a fine-mesh strainer, or a large sieve with 2 to 3 layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it in a large bowlAttach an instant-read digital thermometer to the side of a heavy-duty 7- to 8-quart ovenproof pot.

Warm The Milk and Cream: Put the milk and cream in the pot and warm it over medium heat, stirring regularly with a silicone spatula until it’s 185°F. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 185°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Add The Lemon Juice or Vinegar: Immediately remove from the heat, stir in the salt, and then slowly drizzle the 2 tablespoons of vinegar or the fresh lemon juice over the surface of the milk mixture.

Cook The Curds: Transfer the pot to the oven and “cook” at 185°F for 20 to 25 minutes. After this time, the milk should have separated into clumps of milky white curds and thin, watery, yellow-colored whey — dip your slotted spoon into the mix to check.

If you still see a lot of un-separated milk, add another 1/2 tablespoon (as in 1 1/2 teaspoons) of lemon juice or vinegar and wait a few more minutes.

Drain The Curds: Gently ladle the big curds into the prepared colander. Carefully pour the remaining curds and the whey through the strainer. (Removing the big curds first helps keep them from splashing and making a mess as you pour.)

Let the ricotta drain until it reaches your desired consistency, 30 minutes for soft ricotta and up to 90 minutes for firmer ricotta. Refrigerate it if you let it drain for more than 45 minutes. Transfer the drained fresh ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate. Use within 3 days.

Footnotes

More Italy On Salt & Wind Travel

Photo Credit: Drained ricotta by cbradder; all other by Team Salt & Wind Travel

https://saltandwind.com/recipes/647-homemade-ricotta-cheese-recipe

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