In my book, it’s always a good thing to be able to look in the refrigerator and discover that we have one great ingredient that is ready to top a pizza. It’s particularly a good thing when we get caught up in Season 6 of Entourage (we’re a bit behind) and can’t tear ourselves away for any longer than it takes to stretch out some dough, top it with ricotta, rosemary, and prosciutto and throw it in the oven.
I mentioned this a while back when I used a slightly different recipe for making my own ricotta to make this wonderfully simple summer staple. After I heard from a few of you about it, wondering how the ricotta turned out, I figured it was worth another mention.
I did a little research and found a variety of recipes for making ricotta at home, but it turns out that my favorite was originally published in Bon Appetit and uses a combination of whole milk and buttermilk. Previously I used this recipe published at Smitten Kitchen, but I could taste the slightest hint of lemon juice in it that I didn’t love. I found that I prefer the recipe below, but both were equally easy and worked well after making them several times.
Here’s what it looks like.
8 cups of whole milk and 2 cups of reduced fat buttermilk go into a pot fitted with a thermometer. (After making this a few times, I could probably make it without the thermometer, since there are clear visual clues that it is done.) The sheer amount of milk products that are required to make a scant 2 cups of ricotta is the only thing about making this at home that is a bit daunting.
Heat it over medium-high heat, stirring gently but frequently as curds form on the surface, until it reaches 180 degrees. (The recipe recommends 175-180 degrees, but I find that it does best when it reaches the upper end of that range.)
Slowly pour the liquid into a colander fitted with four layers of cheesecloth.
Gently squeeze the cloth. (I find that I barely need to squeeze the cloth at all to make sure that a good amount of moisture stays in the ricotta.)
Let it cool for about 15 minutes, stir in a bit of salt and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
I imagine that in most places, it is not cost effective to buy a bunch of whole milk and buttermilk over just purchasing ready-made ricotta. However, there is something satisfying about making this cheese at home. Watching the curds and whey seperate and squeezing them out in cheesecloth makes me feel a bit like Laura Ingalls Wilder.
This is a quick kitchen project that is certainly worth a try if it interests you.
Not to mention that making it yourself is certain to earn you some bragging rights at your next dinner party.
Homemade Ricotta in 20 Minutes
Recipe type: Cheese
Yield: makes about 2 cups
- 8 cups whole milk
- 2 cups reduced-fat (2%) buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Stack 4 large squares of cheesecloth in colander, leaving overhang. Combine milk and buttermilk in heavy large pot. Attach deep-fry or candy thermometer to side of pot. Place pot over medium-high heat. Stir almost constantly as mixture heats and curds (small clumps) begin to form. When thermometer registers 175°F to 180°F, curds will separate from whey (liquid) and float to top. Turn off heat.
- Gently pour the liquid into the prepared colander. Gather cheesecloth around ricotta, allowing excess liquid to drain out (don't press out too much liquid or cheese may be dry). Return ball of cheese to colander and let rest 20 minutes. Transfer ricotta to medium bowl. Gently stir in salt. Cover; chill until cold, about 2 hours. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Published in Bon Appetit, April 2010.