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.