Homemade Ricotta Cheese
Rich homemade ricotta cheese is wonderful spread on a toasted baguette, as a vegetable sandwich spread, or simply enjoyed on it’s own with a drizzle of honey.
Homemade ricotta cheese… yes, I made cheese, and no, it wasn’t at all difficult or time-consuming! Ricotta cheese is a great place to start in homemade cheesemaking, because it is SO easy. I’d estimate it takes 10 minutes (at most) of active time, and about 30 minutes of inactive time until you have fresh ricotta ready to enjoy.
Making ricotta cheese requires no fancy ingredients or equipment. If you have milk, salt, and lemon juice, you can make ricotta. An instant-read thermometer, fine-mesh strainer, and some cheesecloth come in handy as well.
There is no comparison between this rich, homemade ricotta and the ricotta you buy at your local grocery store. It’s fresher, richer, and you will want to eat it by the spoonful, preferably drizzled with a little honey. I’ve made homemade ricotta with all whole milk, and with whole milk plus a little heavy cream. The ricotta made with the cream was richer and creamier, but in all honesty I enjoyed the ricotta made with only whole milk just as much. I suggest you try both ways and see for yourself, because once you make ricotta once, I’m confident you’ll want to do it again and again!
There are so many ways to enjoy homemade ricotta cheese. My favorite is to spread it on some lightly toasted baguette slices, and turn it into crostini (recipe coming soon!). I also love to spoon some ricotta into a little bowl, drizzle it with honey, and eat it as a snack. Blueberries pair wonderfully with the ricotta and honey, if you happen to have some in your refrigerator. I know this fresh ricotta would be amazing in a homemade lasagna as well, I just haven’t been able to keep my ricotta around long enough to give it a try!
- ½ gallon (2 quarts) pasteurized whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
- ½ cup heavy cream (optional)
- ½ tsp. kosher or fine sea salt
- ⅓ cup lemon juice
- Pour the milk (and cream, if using) into a medium saucepan and add the salt. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk reaches 190 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
- Remove the pot from the heat, add the lemon juice, and gently stir just enough to distribute the lemon juice. Let stand 5-10 minutes, until the mixture separates into white curds and translucent yellow whey.
- Meanwhile, place a fine-mesh strainer on top of a large bowl or pot. Line the strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth.*
- Carefully spoon or pour the curds and whey into the cheesecloth-lined strainer. Let the ricotta drain for about 10-20 minutes, depending on how dry or creamy you want it. (It will firm up more as it cools.) Less time will give you a creamier, more spreadable ricotta (great for crostini), and more draining time will give you a drier ricotta (perfect for lasagna). You can either discard the whey, or save it in your refrigerator for up to 10 days. Whey can be used in place of water when baking bread, among other things.
- Carefully spoon the ricotta into a storage container, stir, cover, and refrigerate. Ricotta will keep for 3-5 days in the refrigerator.
Try your homemade ricotta in these easy Strawberry-Basil Bruschetta!
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