Homemade ricotta is super creamy, perfectly tangy, and ridiculously easy to make at home. Best of all, it’s ready in as little as 15 minutes. You’ll never go back to store-bought ricotta!
The most satisfying foods I make in my kitchen are generally the simplest. Good, crusty bread. Basic soups. Simple, seasonal salads. A whole roasted chicken. And now I can add cheese to that list. The last few months I’ve been experimenting with making simple cheeses at home. It all started when I wanted to make pasta with ricotta and I realized that ricotta didn’t make it onto my list for the Spring Minimalist Foodie Challenge. I could have declared ricotta my wild card for the week and walked over to the store and bought some, but I’m also kind of lazy and hadn’t showered yet, so that was a non-starter. So off to the google I went to see how hard it would be to make homemade ricotta. Thirty minutes later, I was eating warm, gooey ricotta drizzled with honey. Game changer.
Next thing I knew I was down the rabbit hole of homemade cheesemaking and my mind is freaking blown. Not just because it’s ridiculously easy to make a variety of simple cheeses at home, but by how crazy delicious the results are. So far I’ve stuck with the really easy stuff – paneer, queso fresco, ricotta. I’d like to try fresh mozzarella, and if that’s successful I’ll go for burrata too. All of the cheese, all of the time.
If you’re new to cheese-making, homemade ricotta is a great place to start. It’s super creamy, perfectly tangy, and stupid easy to make. The methodology is simple, the tools are minimal, and the results are the stuff cheese dreams are made of. Homemade ricotta can be ready in as little as 15 minutes, and the hardest part is scraping together enough self-control to share it with others. But if you do happen to consume an entire batch in one sitting (coughcoughcough), another round is just 15 minutes away. So it’s all good.
By far my favorite way to use homemade ricotta is slathered on crusty bread with burst tomatoes and basil. I’ll share my recipe for ricotta toast two ways on Friday, so make sure ya check back in soon.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese Recipe Notes
Most simple cheeses are made with just milk, salt, and acid. The differences come from how hot you heat the milk, which acid you use (lemon juice and white vinegar are most common), and how you treat and strain the curds.
To make homemade ricotta, you only need a few simple kitchen tools:
Heavy bottomed pot
Homemade cheese is a place to be picky about what sort of milk to use. Buy the best quality that you can afford, and make sure it’s not ultra-pasteurized. The super high heat used in ultra-pasteurization denatures (aka “unwinds”) the milk proteins, which means they won’t respond properly to the acid, and therefore won’t curdle correctly or at all. No curdles = no cheese = sad, sad aspiring cheesemaker.
I like to use local, organic, non-homogenized milk that’s minimally pasteurized. I found this handy link that lists local milk sources by state. If you’re on a budget, Trader Joe’s sells low pasteurized organic milk and their pricing is a bargain. I’ve read that both Horizon and Organic Valley, both of which can be found in most supermarkets, also sell non-ultra pasteurized milk.
The trick to getting ricotta just right is heating the milk to the right temperature. Too hot and you’ll end up with harder curds better suited to a paneer-type cheese. Too cool and your curdles will be too soft or small. I found 170* to be the perfect temperature for soft, but substantial curdles. Use a digital thermometer if you’re nervous, and watch the temperature like a hawk. Over medium-high heat, it should take about 7-8 minutes to reach the right temperature. After that, it’s just a matter of straining to your desired consistency.
Homemade ricotta will keep in the fridge for about five days, but I think it’s served best warm, straight from the cloth.
Kitchen Basics: Homemade Ricotta Cheese
- 4 c. organic whole milk non-ultra pasteurized
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt plus more for sprinkling
- 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
- Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat and affix a thermometer to the side of the pot. Heat the milk, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until the temperature reaches 170*F, 7-9 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add the white vinegar to the milk. Stir gently until soft curds form and completely separate from the whey, 1-2 minutes.
- Strain the curds into the cheesecloth lined mesh strainer and then gently stir the curds with a wooden spoon until the most of the whey has drained from the curds. You may need to dump the excess whey from the mixing bowl if it becomes too full. Continue to gently stir the cheese until it reaches the desired consistency (see Notes). Scrap the ricotta from the cheesecloth, taste for seasoning, and sprinkle in extra salt as desired. Serve warm, or store in a lidded container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Makes about a cup.
Wetter ricotta is great for serving on its own with a bit of honey and berries as dessert. A medium consistency is great for spreading on toast or flatbread, and a drier consistency is suitable for traditional, store-bought ricotta uses, like lasagne.