Homemade Ricotta Cheese

 

The other day I told my husband I was planning to make my own ricotta cheese. He looked at me like I was from another planet and said, “why?” As in why bother making it when you can buy it? I would have asked the same question 2 weeks ago, but recently, on a trip to South Beach with my daughter and two of her friends, I had dinner at Michael’s Genuine in Miami. One of the appetizers we ordered was homemade fresh ricotta cheese, served on toasted baguette slices with a dollop of blueberry jam. The slightly salty, creamy ricotta contrasted so beautifully with the sweetness of the blueberry jam.  Since my first bite, I have become obsessed with learning how to make my own ricotta. Fresh ricotta has a rich and milky sweet taste and moist texture. Most ricotta from the supermarket is made with gums or stabilizers to prevent the ricotta from weeping. These additions often make for a gummy and grainy ricotta.

Unfortunately we gobbled it all up before I had a chance to take a picture of it. I did manage to take a picture of the tomato display and our wood fired oven pizza (caramelized onions and mushrooms). One of the chefs came over when he saw me shooting the tomatoes and told me very proudly that they were all local, from Homestead Florida. They are passionate about everything to do with food-from the growing and harvesting, to the preparation, serving, and eating. The menu changes daily because they start with what’s in season and arriving on their doorstep from local farmers, fishermen, ranchers, and artisans.

Once I got home, I looked up fresh ricotta on the Cook’s Illustrated web site and sure enough, there were detailed instructions showing me exactly what to do. All you need is whole milk, lemon juice and salt.

The milk is combined with the salt and then heated to 185ºF. Take it off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and let sit for 5 minutes. At that point you should see curds beginning to form. Let it sit for another 20 minutes and then spoon off the curds and discard the whey. Just like Little Miss Muffet. I am always so awed by chemical reactions like this. Basically the acid in the lemon juice and the heat cause the proteins in the milk to clump together forming curds that separate from liquid whey. I was quite blown away at how easy this was to make.

 

To print the recipe for Fresh Ricotta, click here.

There are a million different ways you can use up your ricotta. That night I sautéed some shallots and garlic and whisked in ricotta, milk and pecorino romano cheese. I mixed it with some whole wheat penne and green peas. It was quite yummy. It would be great on pizza, in lasagna, or even in cheesecake. Check out this chowhound link  for lots of other great ideas.

To print the recipe for Penne with Ricotta and Peas, click here.

I had more of my ricotta for breakfast today, spread on rye toast, with a sprinkling of coarse salt and some Triple Berry Jam.

13 thoughts on “Homemade Ricotta Cheese

  1. Jana

    I am so impressed with this recipe and with how you graphically described the “easy” steps! Have you figured out how to use the whey?

    Reply
    1. saltandserenity

      Thanks Jana. As far as I know we have no pigs in our neighbourhood to feed the whey to, so I will have to get creative! I’ll get back to you when I figure out what to do with it.

      Reply
  2. Rebecca

    Your ricotta looks beautiful! I quite agree about how cool the chemistry part of this is. Isn’t it so satisfying (and easy!) to make your own cheese?!

    Reply
    1. saltandserenity

      Thanks Rebecca. It was a very satisfying exercise to be able to say I made my own ricotta. I’m dying to get my hands on some buffalo milk to try making my own burrata next!

      Reply
  3. Vivian

    Some years ago, I took Indian cooking classes with an energetic Bengali lady (with Cordon Bleu credentials) at our local school board and among many other things, learnt how to make “paneer” (Indian cheese) by the same method as ricotta. It also had a nice, fresh richness.

    So intrigued was I, that I decided to prepare mango cheesecake from scratch, using paneer, as a dessert for my practical exam (a complete Indian meal, served to a food critic along with reps from the school board). FWIW, the whey was not “thrown to pigs” but recycled into chapati and paratha dough!

    Reply
    1. saltandserenity

      Well Vivian , you learn something new everyday. I had a feeling someone would let me know what else we can do with the whey. Good to know it can be incorporated into bread dough. I will have to let all my bread freak friends at The Fresh Loaf know about it!! That mango cheesecake sounds great.

      Reply
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  5. MrsChiefz

    I really want to try this! It looks and sounds so simple to make at home :) My only question is about how much ricotta does this make? I love making grilled chicken and ricotta manicotti’s with my husband’s homemade alfredo sauce but I’ve never tried making the ricotta before…

    Reply
    1. saltandserenity

      It makes about 3-4 cups of ricotta. There is a lot of whey that you discard. It is just the coolest thing ever to watch the curds form, right before your very eyes!

      Reply
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