Fresh Homemade Ricotta is so good, you’ll want to eat it with a spoon. With only 4 ingredients, you can make your own rich, creamy, and smooth ricotta cheese and you’ll never settle for store bought again!
I’ve never been known for my love of ricotta cheese. My only exposure to it was store bought, grainy and watery ricotta. Problem was, The Boy has a physical need to routinely fill his body with mass quantities of ricotta cheese filled pastas. Manicotti, cannelloni, stuffed shells, ravioli, even lasagna are filled with a cheese I didn’t want in my mouth. Then one night we went to a restaurant and they served us fresh ricotta on crostini. It was a game changer.
That night I had my first taste of a ricotta cheese so smooth it almost made me cry. It became a goal of mine to make a ricotta cheese as good as that one, so I could share in The Boy’s love of cheese filled pasta. I went through much trial and error (so you didn’t have to) to find my perfect ratio for my perfect Fresh Homemade Ricotta.
What’s in ricotta cheese?
Traditionally, ricotta cheese is made from the liquid (whey) leftover from the cheesemaking process. Since most of us aren’t making a lot of cheese at home, we’re going to make ours with ingredients you probably already have at home.
- Milk I want rich and creamy ricotta. I want to see The Boy hold back tears when he tastes it. Whole milk gets us 90% of the way there. Don’t try to save calories or reduce fat by using a skim or non-fat milk. This is NOT the recipe to do that. The best thing about homemade ricotta is the creaminess and richness. Serve it with a nice salad. Feel better now?
- Heavy Cream For every 8 cups of whole milk, I add one cup of heavy cream. I said I wanted rich and creamy, and I’m going to get it with this. In one of my trials I tried adding more heavy cream, but it was so creamy that the curds literally melted away. This is the correct ratio.
- Salt This in no way makes your ricotta cheese salty. Used properly, salt makes whatever you’re making just taste more like itself. Unless ordered to by your doctor, don’t skip the salt
- Lemon Juice Many recipes call for the addition of vinegar, but I really love the flavor of lemon juice in my ricotta. It doesn’t taste like lemon though. It tastes like… sunshine. I know, that sounds corny, but wait until you taste it. Then come talk to me.
How do you make Ricotta Cheese?
There are only three steps involved in making ricotta: warming the milk and cream, adding salt and lemon juice, and straining the curds. That’s it! I’ll explain what’s happening every step of the way and, at the end, you’ll feel like a pro!
- Warming the milk and cream Bring milk and cream to a very low simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching the bottom of the pan. You want a good amount of bubbles on the edge of your mixture. If you’re an exact measurement kind of person, or it’s your first time and you want to be sure, use a thermometer and bring the milks to at least 185°F.
- Adding the acid When the milk and cream come to temperature, remove the pan from the heat. Add the salt and stir. Next, drizzle your lemon juice all over the surface of the liquid. Stir it very gently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to disperse the lemon juice throughout the mixture. You’ll start to see clumping of the curds almost immediately. You will be very excited because delicious science is happening right before your eyes! What you’re seeing is that, when heat and acid (the lemon juice) are applied to the milk, the proteins all clump together, leaving behind the watery whey (curds and whey! Little Miss Muffet!) This is the cheese forming! Very gently stir occasionally, for 3-5 minutes to encourage the process.
- Separating the curds Using a ladle or a slotted spoon, gently lift the curds out of the pot and into a colander that has been lined with cheesecloth (save at least 1/2 cup of the whey liquid. I’ll tell you why in a minute). When done, fold the edges of the cheesecloth over the top and allow the cheese to drain for at least 30 minutes, and up to an hour, depending on how firm you want your cheese. I use a looser consistency for things like lasagna or if using as a spread and a firmer consistency for stuffing pasta or cannoli.
- Final notes If you find that the cheese consistency is firmer than you like, you can add back a little of the reserved whey and stir it in.
- You can store fresh ricotta in a tightly closed container for 4-5 days, but it won’t last that long 😊 Congratulations, you are now a Cheese Maker.
How can I use ricotta cheese?
There are the obvious uses for ricotta, as I mentioned above. It’s wonderful in stuffed pastas, as a layer in your lasagna, and as the filling to cannoli, but there are simpler, and just as delicious uses. Fresh Ricotta is especially delicious at room temperature, just spread over lightly toasted bread and drizzled with a good olive oil or, my personal favorite, topped with tomato bruschetta.
I occasionally stir a little honey into my ricotta and spread it on toast. With a shaving of dark chocolate and some toasted pistachios on top, or simply some fresh preserves, this makes for an easy, delicious breakfast. However you serve it, you’ll never look at store-bought ricotta the same “whey” again 😂!
(This recipe makes 2 cups of ricotta cheese)
Looking for more Italian food recipes?
- Grilled Skirt Steak with Italian Chimichurri and Tomato Salad
- Best Italian Meatballs Ever!
- Pantry Shelf Marinara
- Italian Frittata
Fresh Homemade Ricotta
- 8 cups whole milk ½ gallon
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- Bring milk and cream to a simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching the bottom of the pan. If using a thermometer, bring it to at least 185°F, or until there is a lot of steam and little bubbles at the edge of the pot.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Add the salt and stir. Drizzle your lemon juice all over the surface of the liquid. Stir it very gently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to disperse the lemon juice throughout the mixture. Allow lemon juice to work its magic for 3-5 minutes, stirring gently once or twice.
- Using a ladle or a slotted spoon, gently lift the curds out of the pot and into a colander that has been lined with cheesecloth (save at least 1/2 cup of the whey liquid. I’ll tell you why in a minute).
- Fold the edges of the cheesecloth over the top and allow the cheese to drain for at least 30 minutes, and up to an hour, depending on how firm you want your cheese. One hour will give you the consistency of most store-bought ricotta If you find that the cheese consistency is firmer than you would like, you can add back a little of the reserved whey and stir it in. You can store fresh ricotta in the refrigerator for 4-5 days, in an airtight container.
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