Homemade Ricotta Cheese
Making homemade ricotta cheese is a rewarding and surprisingly easy endeavor. Cheese-making at home allows you to indulge in the pure pleasure of creating your own creamy, fresh cheese. And the best part, it’s ready in under an hour. Ricotta, which means “recooked” in Italian, is a soft and luscious cheese that has been enjoyed for centuries. This is a recipe my husband recently started making for my older son and it’s become a family favorite.
Origin of Ricotta
Originating in Italy, ricotta was traditionally made by heating the whey leftover from cheese production. Today, homemade ricotta can be easily crafted by combining milk, acid (such as vinegar or lemon juice), with salt. The mixture is gently heated, causing the milk proteins to curdle and form curds that can be strained to obtain the silky ricotta cheese.
One of the reasons ricotta is beloved by many is its incredible versatility in both sweet and savory dishes. Its mild, slightly sweet flavor and creamy texture make it an excellent addition to lasagnas, stuffed pastas, cheesecakes, and even pancakes. It can be used as a spread, filling, or topping, adding richness and depth to countless recipes.
If you’re a ricotta cheese lover already, consider making fluffy ricotta pancakes drizzled with honey, savory ricotta, and spinach stuffed shells, or even a velvety lemon ricotta cake. The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to incorporating homemade ricotta into your culinary adventures.
Making your own ricotta cheese allows you to experience the satisfaction of transforming simple ingredients into a delectable, artisanal treat. So why not embark on a homemade ricotta cheese-making adventure and savor the luxurious and versatile nature of this beloved cheese, it’s easier than you may think.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
- 1 gallon whole milk (do not use ultra-pasteurized milk)
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- In a large stockpot heat the milk and cream over low heat until it reaches 200 degrees F. Whisk the mixture occasionally while heating to prevent scorching.
- Once the desired temperature has been reached, remove the mixture from the heat. Whisk the mixture in a clockwise direction, and add the salt. Next, add in the vinegar and stir in one full rotation. Cover the pot and allow the mixture to sit, undisturbed for 10 minutes. Note: the mixture will start to coagulate immediately. White curds will begin to float in the whey, it is very important to not mix during this process.
- Meanwhile, line a colander with fine cheesecloth or a 200-count cotton cloth about 36 inches x 36 inches. Remove the lid from the pot and gently ladle the curds out and into the prepared colander. Scoop the curds from the center to the sides. Gently pour the remaining mixture into the cloth around the edges allowing the cheese to drain.
- Allow the cheese to drain undisturbed in the colander for up to 30 minutes, depending on the desired consistency. Next, gently lift and fold the cheesecloth, twisting it closed to allow more liquid to drain while carefully pressing the liquid from the cheese. The more pressure you apply, the more firm the cheese will be. If you prefer a more spreadable ricotta, simply drain less of the whey once in the cheesecloth.
- Remove the cheese from the cheesecloth and either serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve chilled when desired. Note: You can press the ricotta firmly into a small serving bowl to help shape it like I did above. Store the ricotta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.