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.
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.
Servings - 2 cups Cost - $5
Ingredients (see note below)
- 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.
- 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
- 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
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 version. Melissa 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?