Not a fan of supermarket brands of ricotta cheese? Don’t use it that often? Never really give it any thought? Warning: after using this easy technique to make your own fresh ricotta, you will never want to go back to that gooey stuff in plastic tubs, loaded with weird “gums” to make it last longer. One taste of this fresh and all natural ricotta cheese, and you will find yourself scouring cookbooks and the internet for recipes to find new ways to use it.
Super Easy Homemade Ricotta Cheese
You will need: Large heavy-bottomed non-reactive pot (i.e., enameled Dutch oven), candy thermometer, fine mesh strainer (or a colander lined with cheesecloth, a thin dish towel or even several layers of paper towels).
3 cup (24 ounces) whole milk*
1 cup (8 ounces) heavy cream*
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
* if you can find it, non-homogenized milk and cream may yield larger curds
Optional step to help prevent the milk from scorching: before you begin, cool the pot/Dutch oven by swirling ice and water so it comes in contact with the entire bottom and all the sides; discard right before using.
In a large bowl, stir together the milk, cream and salt. Pour this into the empty, cooled pan. Slowly heat the mixture to 185-190 degrees F. It’s okay to stir occasionally, but do not touch the bottom or sides of the pot when stirring (avoiding touching the bottom and sides will help prevent scorching).
When the mixture reaches about 185 F, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and vinegar. Stir gently, just enough to mix it all; it will start to curdle almost immediately. Cover the pot with a dry dish towel (no lid) and let sit for a couple of hours.
Place a fine mesh strainer securely over the same large bowl used earlier for the milk mixture. If using cheesecloth, dampen it slightly and line the mesh strainer with it. Use a large ladle to transfer the curds from the pot to the strainer.
Let the ricotta drain for at least 30 minutes or even up to 2 hours: less for a creamier cheese, longer for a drier cheese. Use the cheese right away or refrigerate in a tightly sealed container for up to seven days.
You can use ricotta in a number of ways, including this easy ricotta gnocchi.
Step by Step Details
This ricotta is so easy because it uses basic ingredients available at any grocery store. Just be sure to juice fresh lemons for the lemon juice. Notice that the vinegar isn’t pictured, because I learned about that after I’d posted this. I liked how it helped the process, so I’ve updated the recipe to include it.
Also, I have found that if you use non-homogenized milk and cream (which can be hard to find, and more expensive), you will get larger curds. But regular milk works just fine, so don’t go to a huge effort to find non-homogenized.
You’ll need a large bowl while you’ll reuse later to save cleaning up), a candy thermometer and, if you have some, cheesecloth. If you don’t, just use a very fine mesh strainer and you’ll be fine.
Use the largest pot you can. I used a 7-quart Dutch oven, which was plenty big. Before you get started, you might want to cool the pot to help prevent the milk from scorching later.
In a large bowl, stir together the milk, cream and salt and pour this into the pan. (You could just pour all the ingredients directly into the pan and stir them there, but you must be careful not to touch the bottom or sides of the pan, or the mixture may scorch later. And since you’ll need the bowl later anyway, you might as well use it now.)
Clip the thermometer to the side of the pot, and slowly heat the mixture to 180-185 degrees F. Stir occasionally, but to prevent scorching, do not touch the bottom or sides of the pot when stirring.
When the mixture reaches about 185 F, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and vinegar. Stir gently, just enough to mix; it will start to curdle almost immediately.
It’s safe to touch the bottom and sides now, since the heat is no longer in play. Cover the pot with a dry dish towel (no lid) and let sit for a couple of hours. Go run errands, read a book, or take a nap. Or start looking up recipes for new and delicious ways to use this fabulous cheese!
Now it’s time to strain the cheese. If you are using cheesecloth, cut off just enough to line the strainer. Dampen the cheesecloth, line the strainer, and then place the lined strainer securely over the same large bowl you used earlier.
Carefully transfer the curds from the pot to the strainer.
If you don’t have cheesecloth or don’t want to mess with it, just use a very fine mesh strainer instead.
Let the ricotta drain for 30 minutes to 2 hours: less for a creamier cheese, or longer for a drier cheese (better for ravioli or lasagna). You may need to stir it around a few times, scraping the bottom of the strainer to allow more liquid through.
The cheese can be used right away or transferred to tightly sealed container and refrigerated for up to seven days. Enjoy!