It is only recently that I found out how ridiculously easy and delicious homemade ricotta cheese is! Had I known it all these years, many of my dishes–especially pasta ones–would have been made much, much better!
This recipe makes two cups of ricotta and it will last a week or so in the fridge in a tightly closed container.
Three simple pieces of kitchen equipment are helpful: cheese cloth (found in almost any grocery store and required), an instant read thermometer (a real help but you could guess the temp based on bubbles and steam) and a regular mesh strainer.
1/2 gallon (2 quarts) of whole milk (you can substitute light or even heavy cream for up to 1/2 of the milk to make it much richer, you can also substitute 2% for up to half of the milk to make it lighter, but it will also make it grainer because of the reduced fat)
1/3 of a cup of fresh lemon juice (you can substitute a good white wine vinegar or even a flavored vinegar, as long as it is white in color)
3/4 t. kosher salt
- Place the milk in a heavy bottomed pan and heat slowly to 200 degrees F. This is just below a boil but the milk may have some bubbles. Store the milk periodically as it heats to prevent a skin from forming (if one does just stir it vigorously back into the milk).
- When it reaches 200 degrees, remove from heat and add the lemon juice (or vinegar) and the salt. Give a quick stir and wait 6-10 minutes until curds have formed and separated from the (now yellow) liquid-this is whey, as in curds and whey.
- Line a strainer set over a bowl with cheesecloth (at least two single layers thick).
- Pour the curds and whey through the cheesecloth and strainer, draining the whey into the bowl. Allow to drain for 10 to 45 minutes depending on how dry/dense you want the cheese (you can taste along the way). Discard the whey.
- When it has reached the desired consistency, transfer to a container and, when cooled to room temperature, refrigerate. That’s it!