How to Make Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Remember that time I took a cheese-making class at school and proceeded to declare that I would make it at home soon and share the process with you guys?  Well, five months later, that is exactly what I’m doing…(sorry ‘bout that).

Homemade Ricotta Cheese ingredients

I’d like to blame my tardiness partially on the fact that I was using ricotta in some way, shape, or form almost every day at work (savory, sweet, you name it) and I was beginning to get a little tired of looking at the stuff.  Don’t even get me started on gougères—I may never be able to bring myself to make a batch again.

I think I also forgot just how easy it is to make ricotta at home.  I’m guilty of doing that sometimes, especially with foods I can just go out and buy at a store.  However, just one spoonful of this silky smooth homemade ricotta made all those excuses fly out the window.

Technically, traditional Italian ricotta cheese isn’t made from whole milk—which is what this version calls for. Traditional ricotta is made by reheating whey (hence, the name “ricotta” which means twice-cooked) and originated as a clever byproduct of the cheese-making process. Confession? I have no idea if I’ve ever tasted authentic ricotta, as almost every kind you can find at a store, even a good one, is made from milk.

homemade ricotta cheese process

homemade ricotta cheese

Regardless, this ricotta is simple to make (the active time is basically 15-20 minutes) and tastes delicious!  It is significantly smoother and does not have the grainy texture you’ll often find in store-bought versions.  And as an added bonus, homemade ricotta cheese is cheaper and doesn’t contain any weird stabilizers or gums.

You can use ricotta in so many ways, including baked goods (cookies, cakes, etc.), pancakes, pasta dishes, donuts/fritters, polenta, or simply spread on bread or toast with various garnishes!  I’m planning on using my batch for a recipe I’ve been eyeing for some time… (hopefully to be posted in the next few days!).  Enjoy!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

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Ingredients:

Equipment:

  • candy thermometer
  • cheesecloth
  • one large fine-mesh sieve

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups whole milk (do not buy ultra-pasteurized, because the recipe will not work)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 juicy lemons worth)

Directions:

  1. Combine milk, cream, and salt in a large (non-reactive—> stainless steel) pot and place over medium high heat.
  2. Using a candy thermometer, preferably one that clips to the side of the pot, bring mixture to 190 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring occasionally with a spoon to prevent the milk was scorching on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Remove pot from the heat and pour in the lemon juice. Stir once or twice to incorporate and allow to sit (without disturbing) for an additional 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, line a large (a small one won’t be large enough to drain the entire batch) fine-meshed sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth and place over a large, deep bowl.
  5. Carefully and slowly pour the ricotta mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve. Allow to drain at room temperature for an hour and a half.
  6. Transfer ricotta to a container and use immediately or refrigerate for up to 2-3 days.

Do not throw out the whey (drained liquid), use it for this polenta al forno recipe.

Inspired by my Cheese-Making Class; Method adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Rich Homemade Ricotta.

All images and text ©.

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homemade ricotta cheese

As I noted in the instructions above, don’t throw out the leftover whey (liquid) after you’ve made your batch of ricotta.  I’ll actually be using it in a recipe later this week…(or you can look at this list for additional ideas!).

‘Til next time!