Homemade Ricotta

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fresh ricotta with lemon

The idea of making cheese at home is kind daunting. There’s talk of rennet and starters and thermometers and precise temperature readings.

Make no mistake, I’ll get to major cheesemaking. One of these days.

Luckily, making ricotta at home is an easy way to get your feet wet. And you’re almost guaranteed to succeed. All you have to do is follow a few simple rules. The biggest one is to use regular, pasteurized milk (see below).

Honestly, this is so simple. I don’t know why I haven’t done it before.

Much like making your own butter, making ricotta is just breaking down milk into its component parts (solids and liquids), then keeping the solids. I’m oversimplifying a little, but that’s basically it.

It’s one of those acts of culinary magic where you transform a few of the most basic ingredients into something worthy of serving to royalty.

The ricotta you make is luscious, creamy, and so sweet and clean tasting. Seriously: I don’t know why I haven’t done this before.

My friend Alyssa recently attended a weekend cheese-making course at a little farm in Vermont. She came back with a notebook full of cheesemaking wisdom. More on her adventure in a post to come soon.

I left my photocopies of the farm’s ricotta recipe at the office, so I used Bon Appetit’s recipe instead, which was similar.

How to make ricotta

To make ricotta, you just need to add an acid element to a pot of simmering milk. In this case, I used lemon juice, but you could also use white vinegar, etc.

one lemon

The acid makes the curds (milk solids) separate out from the whey (milk liquid). You skim off the curd, strain it, and…voila! Ricotta!

It’s really that simple.

How pasteurization works (and why it matters when you make ricotta)

This is important. When you make this ricotta, be sure to use pasteurized milk—not ultra pasteurized.

It’s a small detail, but it makes a big difference. Now, I’m not a cheesemaking expert (yet!) by a long shot, but here’s what I’ve gathered.

When milk is processed, it’s heated (i.e. pasteurized) to lower micro-organism counts and make the milk safe to drink. In regular pasteurization, milk is heated to 145 degrees F and held there for a half an hour.

Ultra pasteurized milk is heated to a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time (163 degrees F for 15 seconds). In terms of cheesemaking, this damages the calcium and protein that bind milk proteins together to form curds.

Oh, and those boxes of milk that you see sitting unrefrigerated on store shelves? They’ve effectively been sterilized, or heated to 285 degrees F for 1 or 2 seconds.

To make this ricotta, be sure to pick up regular pasteurized milk—not ultra pasteurized or sterilized.

whole milk label

Most large grocery stores in the U.S. will carry a few different kinds of milk. Just read the label carefully so you grab the right one.

In Boston, I bought regular old Stop & Shop brand milk. Of course, the better the milk, the better flavor your ricotta will have. If you can get your paws on regular, pasteurized milk from a local dairy, definitely use that.

Equipment for making ricotta

You don’t need any fancy equipment to make ricotta. Just grab a package of cheesecloth at the store. You can find it at most major grocers and at stores like Target/Walmart.

cheesecloth

Aside from that, you’ll need a colander, slotted spoon, and a big pot.

Let’s get started! This recipe is from Bon Appetit. You can find it here.

Homemade Ricotta

From Bon Appetit

16 cups whole pasteurized milk (that’s 1 gallon)
2 tsp. kosher salt
6 Tbls. lemon juice

Yields about 3 cups fresh ricotta

Line a colander with cheesecloth

Grab your cheesecloth.

piece of cheesecloth

And a regular ole kitchen colander.

green colander

Unfold the cheesecloth (it’ll be really long and a little shreddy on the edges). Fold it over into four layers and set it in your colander.

layers of cheesecloth in a colander

cheesecloth lined colander

Set the colander in the sink.

Juice your lemons

Do this ahead of time. You’ll need about 2 large lemons.

squeezed lemons

Simmer the milk and salt

Put the milk in a large, heavy bottomed pot.

pouring milk in a pot

Toss in the salt.

salt and milk

Bring the milk to a simmer over medium-high heat. Keep an eye on the pot as the milk is getting hotter. Milk likes to boil over when it really gets rolling. Lower the heat a little if you need to. You don’t want the milk to scorch on the bottom of the pot.

Add the lemon juice to the simmering milk

When the milk has started to simmer, toss in the lemon juice.

lemon juice and milk

Give it a stir. Simmer for another minute or two. (That’s all, it won’t take long.) The milk should start to separate and get kind of chunky looking.

pot of curdling milk

making ricotta

Skim the curds off with a slotted spoon or skimmer.

strain fresh ricotta

Transfer them into your colander. (If your stove isn’t right next to your sink, set the colander in a large bowl and bring it to the stove to do this.)

straining ricotta through cheesecloth

Keep skimming until you’ve removed all the curds. Let them drain just for a minute for really soft ricotta—or a little longer for something closer to crumbled goat cheese in texture.

fresh ricotta in cheesecloth

My friend Alyssa, the one who went to the cheese class in Vermont (and who’s also a culinary grad, so she knows her stuff), told me to save the whey that’s leftover in the pot and use it to boil pasta. It adds good flavor.

straining fresh ricotta

Transfer to a bowl. Serve immediately, or refrigerate and use within 2 days.

homemade ricotta

Happy cheesemaking!

Homemade Ricotta

Yields About 3 cups

The ricotta you make is luscious, creamy, and so sweet and clean tasting. Seriously: I don't know why I haven't done this before.

Save Recipe

Ingredients

16 cups whole pasteurized milk (that's 1 gallon)
2 tsp. kosher salt
6 Tbls. fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Unfold your cheesecloth (it'll be really long and a little shreddy on the edges). Fold it over into four layers and set it in your colander.
  2. Set the colander in the sink.
  3. Put the milk in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Toss in the salt.
  4. Bring the milk to a simmer over medium-high heat. Keep an eye on the pot as the milk is getting hotter. Milk likes to boil over when it really gets rolling. Lower the heat a little if you need to. You don't want the milk to scorch on the bottom of the pot.
  5. When the milk has started to simmer, toss in the lemon juice.
  6. Give it a stir. Simmer for another minute or two. (That's all, it won't take long.) The milk should start to separate and get kind of chunky looking.
  7. Skim the curds off with a slotted spoon or skimmer. Transfer them into your colander. Keep skimming until you've removed all the curds.
  8. Let them drain just for a minute for really soft ricotta—or a little longer for something closer to crumbled goat cheese in texture.
  9. Transfer to a bowl. Serve immediately, or refrigerate and use within 2 days. Happy cheesemaking!
http://www.thehungrymouse.com/2010/05/06/homemade-ricotta/

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Cheese making by hand is one of those lost arts, and this is a great way to revitalize the effort. Ricotta is one of those soft cheeses that is so versatile.

    Bon appetite!

    CCR
    =:~)

  2. The whey also makes FANTASTIC bread; the last time I made ricotta I replaced the milk and water with whey, and the bread was so good.

  3. Thanks a lot! I’ve been searching a lot for almost 4 hours about Homemade Ricotta, then I finally got it =)

    Thanks for the great share! I’ve learned a lot.

  4. So funny, I just made ricotta yesterday from a Wyoming cookbook that I got as a gift. The recipe is just about the same and its from a recipe called: “Stuffed Brioche French Toast w/ Peach, Pecan and Vanilla Honey Syrup.” It is basically french toast sandwich made with challah bread with this ricotta in the middle and then topped with fruit. It was amazing!! I will post it on my website as soon as I can

  5. This is great to see an easy recipe for ricotta cheese. I can’t wait to try it- have wanted to make cheeses or a long time. Keep the cheese recipes coming.
    homestyleworldcook.blogspot.com

  6. I first want to thank you for this WONDERFUL website you have! I stumbled across it this morning while searching how to make butter. I saw this recipe and had to make lasagna NOW! I made your ricotta and it’s fabulous. I only had 2% milk on hand and it turned out just fine. Perfection 🙂 Next time I will try using whole milk but I do like how this turned out to be a lower fat version. So easy and much tastier than store bought ricotta. From this day forward I’ll never buy ricatta again. Thank you!

  7. Just tried making ricotta based on the recipe from Michael Symon in the March 2011 Food and Wine issue…..wish he would have noted as you do that it will not work with ultra pasteurized milk….do they even sell non ultra organic milk?? What a waste of good organic milk and cream….

  8. Thank you for all of this!!! I’m a little afraid of the kitchen and am very nervous about recipes because I always mess them up no matter how closely I follow them. The pictures were tremendously helpful!!! Makes me feel really confident now!! Thank you! Plus, the cheese is so fresh and light and lemony. I may have put too much lemon in, but that’s ok because I quite like it that way!

  9. I just made this following your recipe and it is great! I also tried Michael Symon’s recipe, just to get a creamier version, and it did not form large curds, but I didn’t want to waste it so I poured it into a coffee filter and it’s good, too, just glad I didn’t put it through cheesecloth like he says to do… (I didn’t use ultra-pasteurized dairy products either.)
    Thank you for posting this recipe!
    Now to figure out what to do with all the whey…

  10. I would like to tell you that this recipe is absolutely delicious! I tried it over the weekend and it turned out perfectly. You really did a great job of presenting everything that needed to be done – and the pictures you post make it impossible to not try this yourself!!

  11. Thank you for this step-by-step. I have made this quite a few times now and I LOVE the ricotta. I make the noodles and pasta sauce for my lasagna and to have the homemade ricotta to go with it is wonderful. Excellent job on the instructions.

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