I attended a dinner party a couple of weekends ago and before dinner the hostess served a beautiful charcuterie platter. The highlight of the platter for me was a rich, creamy, ricotta cheese. As it turns out, my host made the cheese and it’s easier than you think.
My friend told me how she made the ricotta and I couldn’t believe how simple the recipe was. She explained to me that her family always made their own ricotta and that it’s quite typical for most Italian families to do the same.
An unfermented cheese like ricotta is probably the easiest cheese to make and can be eaten almost immediately, actually, unlike other cheeses that need to age, in the case of ricotta, the fresher the better.
You need no special equipment to make ricotta, just a large heavy pot, a sieve and cheese cloth. My host made her ricotta with half whole milk and half whipping cream. Her’s was incredibly rich (and fattening) so I’ve opted to cut back on the heavy whipping cream and add more whole milk. Most recipes I’ve read use 2 parts whole milk and one part whipping cream. Heat the milk and cream in a heavy pot slowly, so as not to scald the milk and cream mixture. Add a pinch of salt to the mixture and bring the milk and cream to a boil. Watch the pot closely and as soon as the milk/cream mixture comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. Now pour in the juice from half a lemon or approximately one tablespoon of lemon juice per litre of the milk/cream mixture.
“unlike other cheeses that need to age, in the case of ricotta, the fresher the better”
The milk/cream mixture will curdle and start to separate into curds and whey. The curds will float to the top and in about 10 minutes you can start skimming the curds off the surface of the liquid. Place a cheese cloth lined sieve over a pot, to catch the whey, then place the curds you’ve skimming in the sieve to drain.
The longer you drain the curds the drier your ricotta will be, it’s up to you. You can eat the ricotta right away or it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Don’t discard the liquid whey you’ve collected, it can be used in bread or as a liquid to braise meats such as pork.
Try using your ricotta on crostini or on fruit with a drizzle of honey. Best of all is using your fresh ricotta with fresh pasta in ravioli or lasagna.
Let me know if you decide to try making your own ricotta.