Ricotta is as Italian as piping hot espresso or handmade pasta, and the soft, sweet cheese is an essential ingredient in many popular Italian dishes. You’ve probably used it to make lasagna or found it tucked inside ravioli or in sweets like cannoli and cheesecake. The good news is, you don’t have to travel thousands of miles to enjoy this tasty staple. You don’t even need to travel to the grocery store. It’s easy to make homemade ricotta in your own kitchen.
Traditionally, ricotta is made with whey left over from making other cheeses. But since most of us aren’t crafting homemade cheese on the regular, the Taste of Home Test Kitchen has a simple recipe using just four ingredients you probably already have on hand.
2 quarts whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons white vinegar
Test Kitchen Tip: The milk needs to separate into curds and whey. In other words, you actually need fat to make ricotta, so it’s really important to use milk with a higher fat content. Whole or 2% will do the trick. Don’t use skim, though, and avoid ultra-high temperature (UHT) pasteurized milk, since it won’t curdle as easily.
Step 1: Set up a strainer
To make ricotta, you’ll start by straining the whey and collecting the curds. Get your setup together first by lining a large strainer with two layers of cheesecloth dampened with water. This creates a superfine filter for the ricotta mixture. Place the strainer over a large bowl.
Test Kitchen Tip: Cheesecloth is a useful item to have on hand in the kitchen. Snip off pieces in whatever size you need, and use them for any task that requires a fine strainer (such as covering a pan of marmalade that’s gelling overnight or immersing herbs in a pot of soup or broth).
Step 2: Bring ingredients to a boil
Time to cook! In a Dutch oven, bring the milk, cream and salt just to a boil over medium heat. (Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.) Once it’s bubbling, remove from heat and gently stir in the vinegar. Then step away and let the mixture stand, allowing time for the curds to form. This should take about 5 minutes; in the meantime, resist the urge to poke or stir.
Step 3: Strain
Slowly pour the curdled mixture into the cheesecloth strainer. It will drain slowly, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. What’s left in the strainer-soft curds of lightly tangy cheese-is the ricotta. Its consistency should be soft and spreadable but not watery. (If it’s watery, let it strain a while longer).
Presto! You’ve made homemade ricotta. Put any leftovers in the fridge. Chilled, ricotta will last for about 5 days.
Test Kitchen Tip: Don’t discard the strained liquid. It’s whey-and though you can drink it, most people like to use it in baked goods like muffins or sourdough, where it provides a tang akin to buttermilk.
Looking for more ideas for your homemade ricotta? Try any or all of these scrumptious options:
- Use it as a spread: Ricotta has a creamy, spreadable texture that’s a great bread or pizza topper. Stir in cooked spinach and feta for this tomato-topped Greek Pizza.
- Have it for breakfast: Our favorite Orange Ricotta Pancakes use a hefty helping of the cheese, which gives this morning staple its extra-smooth texture.
- Get creative: If you like cannoli, you’ll love this recipe for Marvelous Cannoli Cake. It’s a spectacular mashup of one of our favorite Italian desserts and a two-tiered cake.