Ricotta is a sweet, mild cheese that can be made at home with just whole milk, heavy cream, and lemon juice. Discover how to make your own homemade ricotta cheese from scratch.
Making homemade ricotta cheese is a fun and easy process that can be done in just an hour. No preservatives and no additives. Plus, it tastes better than store-bought! All you need is milk and heavy cream for the base of the recipe and salt for seasoning.
It’s the perfect ingredient for adding a new twist to classic Italian dishes, like lasagna and ravioli. Besides, culturing your own cheese from scratch is guaranteed to earn you some serious kudos among your fellow home cooks.
What is ricotta cheese?
Ricotta is a strong white color and has a unique sweet taste. Its texture is quite similar to cottage cheese, which is why ricotta makes a good cottage cheese substitute.
Ricotta literally translates to ‘refined’ or ‘recooked’ in Italian, referring to the process of recooking the whey from cheese curd.
Ricotta whey is first allowed to become more acidic by additional fermentation, often by resting it for at least 12 hours at room temperature. It’s then brought to a near-boil to create a curd, which is then cooled and separated.
If all of this sounds complicated, don’t worry. We have an easy shortcut recipe that only uses whole milk, heavy cream, and lemon juice. Best of all, it only takes an hour to make!
Using raw milk will yield the best results, but realistically most of us will have to use regular whole milk. Whichever you get, avoid organic milk (or ‘ultra-pasteurized milk) at all costs. It’s pasteurized to high temperatures, leaving very little of the good bacteria and proteins we need to culture the ricotta curd.
You can use any acid here, so distilled white vinegar is also a good alternative.
- Use 2-4 layers of cheesecloth to line your sieve. This will help you retain as much of the ricotta curd as possible.
- Do not allow the milk to come to a boil. Use medium heat and aim for a near-boil of around 185°F (85°C). I strongly recommend getting a kitchen thermometer to help you gauge temperature as accurately as possible.
- Only stir the milk occasionally as it comes to temperature, and only once after you have added the lemon juice or distilled white vinegar. Over-stirring will dissolve the curd, preventing ricotta from forming.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
- large sieve
- fine-mesh cheesecloth
- kitchen thermometer
- slotted spoon
- 2 quarts whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- In a large pot over medium heat, add the milk, cream, and salt. Heat slowly and stir occasionally, bringing to a near-boil. Do not let it reach a full boil.
- When the milk reaches 185°F, add the lemon juice. Stir once and stop.
- Keeping the milk at 185°F, leave over heat for 15 minutes to allow the curds to form
- Line a large sieve with fine-mesh cheesecloth, and place over a large bowl. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the curds out of the pot and drain over the lined sieve. Leave to drain for one hour.
- Once drained, transfer the ricotta curd to an airtight container. Leave in refrigerator for at least 12 hours. Enjoy within two days.
- Over-stirring will prevent the curds from forming, so ensure that you only stir once when you add the lemon juice.
- If the ricotta is too dry after draining, mix in one teaspoon of cream to bring it back to your desired consistency.
What can I use instead of cheesecloth?
Cheesecloth can be expensive and difficult to find. Coffee filter paper and muslin fabric are both effective backups for cheesecloth.