Simple and Fun: Make Your Own Ricotta Cheese

If someone told me that four ingredients and about thirty minutes in the kitchen would yield my very first homemade cheese, I’m not sure I would have believed them. Until yesterday.

Though our Culinary training at Escoffier is based on French technique, this week is an exploration of all things fromΒ Italia, and I’m in absolute heaven. Not just for the Ricotta and Ricotta Salada that I’ll share today, but also for the fresh pasta, potato gnocchi, bruschetta, polenta, biscotti, cannoli… the list is lengthening so quickly I’m literally overwhelmed.

Italians are the masters of slow food, simple food, local food, sustainable food… using restraint in the kitchen in such a way that the ingredient itself shines; growing produce and raising animals in a manner that is ethically sound, actually beneficial to the earth, and planet-sustainable for generation after generation.

And I’m sure every country- Italia included- has its share of ethical food challenges. But we have so much room for improvement here in the states… I’ll devote many posts to this in the future, but I hope this will plant seeds of thought in the meantime. And I want to show you cheese!

This is an incredibly simple way to make your first homemade cheese. For cheese making experts, this is not a strictly traditional Ricotta, but it’s pretty close for a home cook. And if it will bring even one of you into the kitchen to make fresh cheese with me… then it’s a win in my book.

Simple Homemade Ricotta Cheese

yield about one pound; active time less than 30 min

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon milk (about 3.75 L)- try to find milk that isn’t ultra-pasteurized
  • 1 quart buttermilk (about 950 mL)
  • juice from half a lemon
  • salt to taste

Method

1. Heat milk in a large pot just until bubbles begin to form around the edges

2. Add the buttermilk and lemon juice and bring to a simmer, stirring gently and occasionally. You will notice the solid curds separating from the liquid whey.

3. Once you’ve reached a simmer, remove from heat and cover for 15 minutes.

4. Gently pour the mixture through a strainer or colander lined with a few layers of cheesecloth. You will have curds remaining in the cheesecloth, and whey liquid strained out.

Note: save your whey liquid- it’s packed with incredible protein and can be used as a base for smoothies, to substitute for the water in making bread to create a healthier loaf- try this easyΒ Basic French Bread, or chilled for a protein-rich breakfast drink. I love it straight, but you could definitely add a little honey if you prefer.

Tie your cloth of curds into a bundle and hang over a small pan in the refrigerator to continue draining for a few hours. Season to taste with salt and you have a moist, homemade Ricotta cheese. This is incredible as is, and can also be mixed with herbs for sandwich spreads, ravioli filling, added to salads… or sweetened and used is dessert applications.

To turn your fresh Ricotta into Ricotta Salada, simply let it continue to drain refrigerated in the cheesecloth unit it becomes crumbly and dry. Ricotta Salada can be substituted anywhere you’d use a dry, crumbly cheese.

Give it a try, and let me know if your friends and neighbors don’t love you more than they already do. Buon appetito, cheese makers~

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24 thoughts on “Simple and Fun: Make Your Own Ricotta Cheese

  1. Incredible Deb! You’ve made your own cheese! Very inspirational, I know lots of folks who’ll want this recipe! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    How great are those antipasto platters too, they look insanely delicious!

  2. The best things to prepare are easy , you just need someone to show you or how simple it really is to make! Good creativity! And I like your table and place settings!

    • Thank you pies&eyes. Agreed! Sometimes simple can be challenging to execute well, but the reward is so worth it πŸ™‚ Hope you’re having some fun in the kitchen!

    • That was actually the makings of bruschetta! Tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, a few shallots, olive oil… I just left the grilled baguette out of the picture πŸ™‚

    • Becca, thank you so much for stopping by, and for leaving a comment πŸ™‚ I’m glad you’re liking it!! I’m really working on the photography side- with plenty of help from other bloggers- and it’s coming slowly but surely. I hope πŸ™‚ Let me know if you make any recipes and what you think. Know you’re incredibly busy, but thanks again for reading. We’ll chat soon. Love you all!

  3. Interesting! I have only ever made paneer and don’t like to think that so much milk turns into so little cheese! Your suggestion to use the whey to make bread, though–that might change things. You don’t specify if you have to use whole milk. Is that preferable or would this work with 2%?

    • You know, emmycooks, my first thought on the milk is that 2% would probably work, but you’d end up with even less cheese yield. But, let me double check with my Chef Instructor today, and I’ll leave another comment here for you. I probably should have specified that in the original article πŸ™‚
      Agreed- using the whey makes me like the process much more! I love paneer but have never made it at home. Do you have a recipe that you like?

      • I double checked, and using 2% or skim milk will work (try to find one that isn’t ultra-pasteurized) but you will have a smaller yield of cheese. The cheese, however, will be a lower fat or skim cheese, so if that is a goal, then go for it! And let me know how it turns out πŸ™‚

  4. Looks awesome! I love the taste of cheese. πŸ™‚ Especially Italian cheeses. How cool that you’ve learned to make your own! And I love all your photos in this post, particularly the dinner table and antipasto. They remind me of family dinners when I was young. πŸ™‚

    • Completely with you, Laura, on cheeses! I think mozzarella is scheduled for tomorrow in class πŸ™‚ That one’s a little more complicated with some ingredients that aren’t easily accessible, so I’m not sure I’ll post it. But I’ll sure eat it! You must have had some incredible family dinners growing up. Something about an antipasto platter gives me that warm fuzzy every time : )

  5. Maman wants to know if the cheese recipe uses whole or skim milk and the buttermilk whole or fat free? Sounds like something I will try but Daddy most likely will not! Love, Maman

    • Hi there you two πŸ™‚ I love how it’s written by Maman but I can tell you, Daddy, are actually doing the writing. Very cute! Thank you so much for reading my ramblings on food. For your cheese question, you will get the most flavor and a little more yield of cheese from whole milk and buttermilk. That said, as long as you can find lower fat or skim varieties that either aren’t pasteurized at all or are pasteurized but not ULTRApasteurized… then you should be good. You’ll get a little less cheese, but it should still taste good and will have a lower fat content than if you used whole dairy products. I haven’t tried it with 2% or fat free yet… but I might have to now πŸ™‚
      And, yes, this will most likely not be daddy’s favorite… unless you reduce the salt, add some powdered sugar and cocoa… πŸ˜‰

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