How to Make Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta cheese is amazing.  Although you’ll see many recipes that suggest substituting cottage cheese, don’t do it if you have a choice.  Ricotta is the real deal and you're missing a wonderful treat if you settle for anything less. 

This month’s Baketogether recipe is panna cotta, “cooked cream” in Italian, topped with a fruit-based sauce.  (I’ll blog about my Baketogether panna cotta later this week.)  While panna cotta is traditionally made with cream or a combination of cream and milk, Abby Dodge’s recipe uses ricotta cheese.  Bingo - an excuse to make homemade ricotta cheese again!  Like mascarpone cheese, ricotta is easy to make and the rewards are great.

ricotta recipe

The first time I made ricotta cheese, I used Jennifer Perillo’s buttermilk-based recipe.  It was fantastic, but this time I thought I’d try a different version.  

After consulting many versions and trying a second one (below), I concluded that: 

  • Homemade ricotta is infinitely better than store-bought;
  • Whole milk is the base, but you can add heavy cream and/or yogurt or substitute lower fat milk for at least part of the whole milk;
  • All the recipes use a lot of liquid dairy to produce a relatively small amount of ricotta.  Eight cups or more of milk and other dairy (plus other ingredients) – no matter what the proportions – yield about 2 cups of ricotta; and
  • Whether you heat the liquid to just below a simmer or to boiling, be careful not to let the milk burn the bottom of the pan or you’ll ruin the cheese and spend days cleaning the pot.

I wanted to use up ingredients I had onhand, so I did a mash-up of various recipes. 

Ricotta Cheese

Servings - 2 cups   Cost - $5

Ingredients (see note below)

ricotta recipe ingredients
  • 1 quart (4 cups) whole milk
  • 1 quart (4 cups) nonfat milk
  • ⅔ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Notes: If I had 2% or a second quart of whole milk, I would have used that and skipped the heavy cream. Next time I will leave out the yogurt and up the white vinegar.  I used only half the salt that most recipes do and didn't find the result too bland, especially when the ricotta is combined with other flavors.

Equipment

recipe ricotta equipment
  • Large pot with cover
  • Large spoon 
  • Deep bowl
  • Strainer with several layers of cheesecloth or a clean, white handkerchief
  • Measuring spoons
  • Optional – spatula, ladle, measuring cups for solids and liquids if can't estimate based on container size
make ricotta recipe
  • Put all the ingredients in the large pot uncovered.  
  • 20120827ricottacurdsbegin.jpg
  • Heat the ingredients just to boiling – just beyond a simmer, and definitely not a rolling boil, stirring gently as curds (fluffy round balls of cheese) develop.  
  • Gently cook for 1 minute, then take the pot off the heat and cover it.
  • Let the ingredients stand in the covered pot for about 15 minutes.
  • Place the strainer, lined with cheesecloth or a handkerchief, on top of the bowl
  • make ricotta
  • Gently transfer the liquid, which now has curds, into the strainer.   I used a spoon, then tipped the pot over the strainer and finally got the last bits out with a spatula.
  • Allow the cheese to stay in the strainer as the liquid drips through to the bowl underneath.  If your bowl isn’t big enough to hold all the liquid without touching the bottom of the strainer, simply remove liquid that has drained into the bowl mid-way through the process.  Depending on how you will use the ricotta and the density you prefer, drain the cheese for anywhere between a few minutes and 15-20 minutes. 
  • make ricotta cheese

    For more options and information on making ricotta: If you’re interested in various ingredient, temperature and straining time options, look at the SeriousEats post on making ricotta.  As always, I checked out David Lebovitz's versionMelissa Clark has a nice video, with slightly different preparation method, but I like her explanations of how to vary the basic method depending on the result you seek – big curds or smaller, creamy or dry.  Fiasco Farm has a recipe that uses only whole milk (no cream or yogurt) with more acid.

    Do a taste test and let us know what you think.  How does homemade stack up against store-bought?  What about how the type of acid affects taste - buttermilk vs. lemon juice vs. white vinegar?

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