Want to impress your friends and family with a super easy and delicious recipe? I never considered making my own ricotta cheese until I stumbled across it in one of my food magazines a few years ago.
I’m dying to try my hand at using it in homemade ravioli, but I haven’t yet. It’s great with sliced fresh tomatoes from you garden though, and I love it just schmeared on a slice of toasted French or Italian bread. Add some diced roasted tomatoes and a couple of slivers of fresh basil and you’ll fall in love. It’s also a great crostini appetizer schmeared on toasted baguette slices, with a spread of homemade pesto put on first. Of course, it’s also great in homemade lasagna or any type of stuffed pasta you’re craving.
I think people are impressed by this recipe because, like me, it’s not something you really think about making yourself. But the results are DIVINE. Seriously delicious. It’s so much creamier and flavorful than store-bought ricotta and I think once you try it, you’ll be hooked too.
I think the only thing you’ll need for this that you may not already have is cheesecloth. If you don’t have it and don’t know where to find it, it’s usually with the kitchen utensils at the grocery store or department store.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese Recipe
First, get your cheese strainer ready to go. You’ll need:
- A fine mesh sieve or colander
- A bowl that the sieve or colander will sit in, leaving room at the bottom of the bowl for drainage. Here’s my setup:
The line the sieve or colander with a piece of cheesecloth:
Here are the ingredients:
- 2 quarts (8 cups) whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Depending on how I’m going to use it will depend on the amount of lemon juice. 4 tablespoons adds more of a definite lemon flavor, where as 3 just acts as more of a fresh acidity. In this batch, I used 4 tablespoons.
Juice your lemons so the juice is ready to use when you need it. I used about 2 lemons for the 4 tablespoons I wanted, but of course this will depend on the lemon.
Add the milk, cream and salt to a large pan. Bring to a slow boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching the milk and cream. This step takes about 20 minutes or so for me, as I’d rather err on the safe side and not have the heat too hot.
When it’s reached a slow boil, reduce to a simmer and add the fresh lemon juice. With a large spoon, stir to incorporate the lemon juice into the dairy mixture.
After 2-3 minutes or so, it should look like this:
I don’t like to stir mine too much, as I like mine with larger, softer curds. If you want smaller, tighter curds, then stir more often while it’s cooking.
After your 2-3 minutes is up, gently and carefully pour into your prepared strainer:
Wait 60 seconds and, over a sink, carefully drain off the liquid that’s accumulated in the bottom bowl then place back under colander. Refrigerate for one hour, letting the rest of the liquid drain off the cheese.
This is a little bowl of nirvana right here:
Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than 2-3 minutes for your cheese to form curds. It’s going to depend on the temperature of the dairy mixture and how much lemon juice you add. I’ve also used half lemon juice and half white vinegar for this, due to being low on lemons, and it worked great. Either way, it’s the acidity that’s making your dairy curdle. Sometimes, it takes longer than others.
Also, don’t expect the entire batch to curdle – there’s going to be some liquid left over – probably more than you expected – which is why you strain it.
Last but not least – I’ve used organic milk for this and non-organic and it’s worked great no matter which one I use. I have not, however, tried it with skim or low-fat milk so if you have, I’d love to hear your results.
If you love ricotta cheese, I hope you’ll try this! It really is a simple process that’s totally worth the end result. Enjoy!