Homemade Ricotta: who knew making cheese could be easy?

I started getting interested in making cheese last summer, but I was totally intimidated by the process.  I assumed it required ingredients and equipment I don’t have, plus time and new skills.  Then I discovered ricotta.  The ingredients are things I normally buy.  The only equipment needed is a pot, spoon, colander and cheesecloth (which is available at any large grocery store).  It’s as quick and easy as it gets.

If that’s not convincing enough, I should also mention that the final result is spectacular.  It barely resembles store bought ricotta.  I want to eat it with everything (which is a totally new emotion for me…I was never a huge fan of ricotta before).  I’m spreading it on crackers and toast, topping it with honey and jam, putting it in homemade calzones.  I’ve even started to dream of cannolis (which I swear I’ve never craved before in my life).  Fresh ricotta is so, so good.

Ricotta with plum jam and a strawberry

Ricotta takes 10 minutes of prep time + 1 hour of sitting.  This recipe makes just shy of two cups.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon of whole milk
  • 1 pint of heavy cream
  • 1 tsp salt (I like sea salt)
  • 1 lemon (or approx 2 T of lemon juice) or 2T of white vinegar

Note: if you use lemon as your acid, it imparts a light lemon taste on the ricotta (which I love in everything but pizza); if you use vinegar, it imparts a slightly tart, vinegar taste.  I think the most neutral tasting acid you can use is citric acid, but I didn’t want to go to a specialty cheese shop to hunt that down.  I’m OK with lemon or vinegar.

Pour your milk, cream and salt into a pot.  Choose one of your bigger pots (to prevent the milk from boiling over), ideally with a heavy bottom (to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom).

Slowly bring the contents of the pot to a rolling boil.

As the milk is heating up, line your colander with 2 layers of cheese cloth and squeeze your lemon juice.

Once the milk reaches boiling, add the lemon juice to the pot.

Let the milk curdle and cook for an additional 1 – 2 minutes.

Pour into colander, straining the curdled milk from the whey.

Let the cheese sit for 1 hour and drain.

Enjoy!

For a quick dinner recipe with ricotta, see this post.  Ricotta all the time!

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14 thoughts on “Homemade Ricotta: who knew making cheese could be easy?

  1. i was looking forward to trying this quick & easy recipe especially since store-bought ricotta is so disappointing… and, it came great and is worlds apart from ricotta we can buy here in the US.

    i tried it slightly warmed on a piece of whole grain toast with some ground pepper over the top to get a sense of the flavor. then i poached pears in port and spices and warmed some ricotta heaped on top of the pear with the reduced port wine sauce and a little bit of shaved dark chocolate over it.

    i have to say this overpowered the flavor of the ricotta. i can imagine it tasting great with fresh figs, plums or apricots at room temperature as a summertime dessert.

    as a side note, the whey you end up with from the cheese-making process has lots of great uses – cooking grains and beans (great in oatmeal), add a little to soup, in smoothies, in muffins and quickbreads…

    thanks for the recipe, allison!

    • Thanks for bringing up the buttermilk option. I’ve seen other people make it that way (like on 101 cookbooks), but I wonder if it’s virtually the same thing as using a lower dose of vinegar? I know whenever I’m baking and a recipe calls for buttermilk (which I never have around the house), I always sub for 1 c milk + 1 T white or apple cider vinegar…

      LOVE your experiment! And your photos are great. I had been planning on doing something similar, but now I don’t have to! Thanks!

  2. I attempted to make this tonight. I opted for the lemon route. And while i followed the instructions to the T, at the end of the 1-2 minutes my pot was still full of liquidy milk. While I’m currently waiting for an hour to pass patiently, I cannot help but thing something didnt go quite so right. Any guess as to what happened?

    Approximately how much whey did you have once you drained the cheese?

    • Hey! Glad you’re making it. Doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong. I had to pour off loads of whey. It’s been a little while now, but I’d say it was 4+ cups. The important part is what’s left behind in the colander. There should be about 2 c of ricotta.

      How long you drain your ricotta is actually pretty flexible. If you want a softer, wetter ricotta, you could drain it for as little as 30 minutes. If you want a drier, firmer ricotta, you could drain it for more than an hour. I decided that an hour was a good length, but you can taste it as it drains as figure out what tastes best to you.

      Let us know how the final product turns out!

      • It yielded approximately a 1 1/4 cup of very wet ricotta after about an hour and a half of draining. Regardless of the yield it resulted in some very yummy cheese!

    • Yes and no. The cream is really key to getting a nice and (not-so-surprisingly) creamy ricotta. If you leave it out (and/or use a low fat milk), you’ll get a really crumbly cheese out that doesn’t really feel like ricotta. I tried it once (note: once!) with just low-fat milk and it almost tasted rubbery to me. In the store, low-fat ricottas are supplemented with gums and other starches to try to improve the texture. I say, go full fat! And just don’t eat a whole batch in one sitting.

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