Easy Homemade Ricotta Cheese
You can make this easy homemade ricotta cheese with only 3 ingredients and 30 minutes of your time. Fresh homemade ricotta cheese definitely worth the effort, and there’s not much effort really. I am sure many of you have wondered if it is hard to make your own ricotta. The answer is No. Making your own ricotta is easy and economical, not to mention delicious and creamy! Use it in your favorite recipe that calls for ricotta, like lasagna. Click here for my best lasagna ever recipe.
What is Ricotta Cheese?
Ricotta cheese is an Italian whey cheese that is made from sheep, cow, goat or even water buffalo milk whey leftover from the production of other cheeses. It is made by coagulating the proteins that remain after casein has been used to make cheese. If this all sounds too technical, suffice it to say ricotta is a rich Italian cheese that is easily made at home with a few ingredients.
The creamy texture of ricotta is perfect for sweets like cannoli or cheesecakes but also wonderful in savory dishes like lasagna or stuffed pasta shells. It’s great on its own as well. Try it on a toasted baguette with some honey or some sliced fruit. Limited by only your imagination give it a go.
What 3 ingredients you say? Well it’s a pretty basic list. Whole fat milk (non UHT), and acid (either lemon juice or white vinegar) and salt. That’s it. You will also need a few other items to help the process. I recommend a thermometer but if you don’t have one, don’t worry. You can eyeball the milk mixture and still come out with amazing ricotta, but you have to pay attention. You will also need a large heavy bottomed pot, a decent sized piece of cheesecloth (which you will fold over itself a few times), a colander to put the cheesecloth over, a wooden spoon, a ladle and a bowl to catch the whey. That’s it! Sounds pretty easy right? You would be correct.
I must say that since I learned to make my own ricotta cheese a few years ago, I rarely buy it. Where I live ricotta is quite expensive so making it is both easy and economical.
Making ricotta requires a certain amount of acidity in order for the curds to form. If you find that you are not getting good curds it may be that your lemon isn’t acid enough. Don’t hesitate to add more lemon juice to make this happen. A tablespoon or two should do the trick if your milk doesn’t curdle immediately. Also, do not use Meyer lemons, they do not have the same acidity as regular lemons which is why they are sweeter. I do prefer lemon juice over vinegar in my ricotta, but either will work, so use what you have on hand. If your intention is to use the ricotta for a sweet dish I recommend using lemon juice but, if you have used vinegar in the making of it, you may want to sweeten it before you use it.
What is Whey?
The whey is the liquid you are left with after you add the acid and curds form and after straining the curd. You can use the whey in other recipes if you want. It is great in breads or pizza dough.
Can I Freeze Ricotta?
The simple answer is yes you can freeze it, but keep in mind that the texture will change so that when it thaws it will be crumbly. I try not to freeze it but if you are not going to use up the entire 2 cups you make, then by all means freeze it rather than waste it. It is best used in recipes where it is mixed with other ingredients or cooked in baked dishes (like lasagna). You can find my lasagna recipe here. Make sure to freeze it in an airtight container and as little air as possible. More air equals more ice crystals which changes the texture even more. Use your frozen ricotta within 3 months then thaw overnight and give it a good stir before you use it.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
- 1 colander
- cheese cloth
- large pot
- wooden spoon
- 2 Litres Whole milk (full fat)
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed) or distilled white vinegar
- In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the milk over medium heat.
- Add the salt and stir occasionally with a Wooden spoon. Do not let the milk scorch.
- Heat the milk to 185° F.
- If you do not have a thermometer, watch the milk for tiny bubbles that form around the edge of the pot. The milk should be steaming and there should be a slight thin film. This can take up to 20 minutes to get to this stage.
- Reduce the heat to low and add your acid (lemon juice or vinegar)
- Slowly stir the mixture for a couple of minutes, you should see the curds forming (this is the ricotta). The curds will separate from the whey (yellowish liquid).
- Remove the pot from the heat and cover. Let sit for 20 minutes
- While it is sitting, prepare your colander and cheesecloth. Dampen the cheesecloth then fold the it so that it covers the inside of the colander and has about 3-4 layers. Place the colander over a bowl. Do not use any reactive materials. Wooden spoons and glass or plastic bowls are best.
- After the ricotta has sat for 20 minutes begin ladelling it into the prepared cheesecloth lined colander.
- The consistency (creaminess) of the ricotta is dependent on how long you let the ricotta drain. For a creamier ricotta let it sit for only 3 or 4 minutes; for a drier ricotta, up to 20 minutes is fine.
- Use immediately or cover and refrigerate until needed no longer than 3 days.
- Use only full fat milk
- Do not use UHT milk
- Reduce draining time for creamier ricotta
- Use within 3 days
- Ricotta can be frozen