Homemade Ricotta

“Thinking about making ricotta is only marginally easier than actually making it.”  The New York Times

I have been thinking of making my own ricotta for years.  Whenever fresh homemade ricotta is on a restaurant menu, we order it and usually swoon while enjoying it.  Well I finally took the plunge.  I recalled reading it was so easy to make:  milk, vinegar and salt. When I started looking up recipes I found several variations.  Some had milk and cream.  The acid source varied from either vinegar, lemon juice or citric acid.  The quantity of salt also varied from 1 teaspoon to 2.  The wait time for curdling was 1 to 10 minutes.  Drainage time varied from 20 minutes to 2 hours.  I tried several variations and can report they were all delicious.  The salting is really to taste and I would recommend starting with a teaspoon and adding more if you like your ricotta saltier.  The cream creates a smoother ricotta that seemed less traditional and took longer to drain the whey from the curd.  I preferred the milk only version but recommend using whole milk.  Vinegar seemed to yield a coaser curd while the lemon juice yielded a creamier cheese.  No matter what version you use, homemade ricotta is easy to make and most of the time is spent hands off, waiting for the whey(liquid) to drain from the curd. If you like your ricotta drier, drain it longer.  For creamier texture, drain 20 minutes.  The whey can simply be discarded but it is nutritious and can be reserved for soup bases or other uses.  I froze mine for later use.  I include recipes for both versions.  Chill the fresh ricotta for a hour or two before using just so the cheese firms up.

  • 4 cups of whole milk
  • 2 cups of whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • cheesecloth

In a heavy bottomed pot, bring the cream and milk to a boil over high heat.  Remove from heat as soon as the milk/cream boils.  Add the salt and lemon juice.  Leave 10 minutes at room temperature to curdle.  Pour the mixture over a collander that has been fitted with 4 layers of damp cheesecloth that is set over a bowl to collect the whey liquid. Let drain for 20 minutes for coarse ricotta or up to 2 hours for a creamier ricotta.  Pour off some of the whey if it is touching the collander.  Scoop into a container and refrigerate covered for up to 5 days.

Note how creamy the texture of this ricotta is. The curds are hardly discernible.

  • 8 cups of whole milk
  • 1/3 cup of white vinegar
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • cheesecloth

In a heavy bottomed pot, bring the milk to a boil over high heat.  Remove from heat as soon as the milk boils.  Add the salt and vinegar.  Leave 10 minutes at room temperature to curdle.  Pour the mixture over a collander that has been fitted with 4 layers of damp cheesecloth that is set over a bowl to collect the whey liquid. Let drain for 20 minutes for coarse ricotta or up to 2 hours for a creamier ricotta. Pour off some of the whey if it is touching the collander. Scoop into a container and refrigerate covered for up to 5 days.

Note how much coarser the curd of the milk only ricotta is compared to the cream based one above.

For one appetizer suggestion: We grilled sourdough bread to enjoy with the rmilk/cream ricotta. We layered some honey in the bottom of a Ball jar, scooped some ricotta in, added another layer of honey and topped that with more cheese and a final swirl of honey. Oh so good slattered on the warm bread with juicy blackberries, albeit a bit runny.

Another crostini was made with the milk only ricotta.  Equally delicious, less creamy, more crumbly.

I’d conclude that both versions are wonderful and it is a matter of preference or how you will use your ricotta that should determine which recipe you prefer.  One thing is for sure:  making your own ricotta is easy and the freshness incomparable.  Enjoy!

“Little Miss Muffet

Sat on a tuffet

Eating her curds and whey

Along came a spider

Who sat down beside her

And frightened Miss Muffet away.” 1805 Nursery Rhyme

Little Miss Muffet, oil on canvas, 19th Century, John Everett Millais