Homemade Ricotta

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I’m fairly certain that in some previous life I grew up on a farm, with chickens and dairy cows and those wide-trunked, top-heavy trees that flop over fences and into creeks. Or perhaps I just watched too much Little House as a kid.

We drove back from Kelowna yesterday, stopping in at D Dutchmen Dairy for our usual vanilla milkshake (like thick, cold cream – made with their own ice cream and a glug of whole milk from the Holsteins out back) and to stock up on dairy products to cram into the car for the last leg home.


The sign on the barn said that each Holstein produces 8500 litres of milk per year (plus one calf) – math isn’t my forte, but that calculates to over 160 litres of milk per week, per cow. (Never mind urban chickens – I want to keep a cow in my back yard.) I fantasized for the rest of the drive about what I might do with access to a steady supply of so much good milk/cream/butter and how I might smuggle a cow into our garage, and when I got home I made a batch of ricotta.

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There are plenty of formulas for homemade ricotta out there – most are made with whole milk and lemon juice, some are enriched with cream, others use white wine vinegar as the acid. All you do is heat the milk, then stir in some lemon juice and it magically separates into curds and whey, which you then pour through a cheesecloth. Really, that’s it.

ricotta Collage 2

The milk/cream is heated to steaming – or 190F, if you have a thermometer in your drawer – squeeze in some lemon juice and let it sit for five or ten, then pour it through some cheesecloth. Isn’t it satisfying to use cheesecloth for actual cheese making?

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It will drain in less than an hour, but the longer it sits, the more whey will drain out – which you can thriftily use it in bread dough, pancakes, muffins and the like.

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If there’s so much whey that the colander is sitting in it, pour it out into another bowl. (You’ll wind up with about three cups of whey and one of ricotta.)

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A friend told me this morning his mom used to make paneer in exactly the same way – she’d set a plate on top to weigh it down, which you can do once the ricotta is firm enough to gather up in the cheesecloth. The more whey you press out, the firmer and drier your cheese will be.

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Ricotta is great in cheesecake, divine on pizza and tossed into pasta, spread on toast or crostini and drizzled with honey, and a soft, spreadable ball is perfect for a cheese board or brunch. Also? I find it immensely satisfying to have a bundle of fresh, homemade cheese wrapped in cheesecloth in the fridge. It’s almost like having my own cow. But I get to keep my lawn, too.

Ricotta Collage

This formula makes about a cup – enough for a nice little ramekin for your breakfast table or to add to a recipe. Quantities are easily doubled – and the process is the same. I brought some to CBC this morning with a batch of cherry-rhubarb preserves – I simmered frozen rhubarb (gotta get rid of last year’s stash) and the last of a bag of frozen cherries on the stovetop with about a cup of sugar until it all got soft and jammy. Perfect with the smooth, creamy ricotta and a crusty, chewy baguette.

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Homemade Ricotta

About Julie

14 comments on “Homemade Ricotta

  1. Misty
    May 13, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    This makes me crave a pasta and spicy sausage in a red sauce with dollops of fresh ricotta.

  2. christine
    May 13, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    I can’t wait to try this. We were in Chicago last weekend and I had a calzone to die for at Eataly, Mario Batali’s Costco size Italian eatery/market. It had spicy tomato sauce, rosemary parma ham and fresh ricotta. Amazing. Since I don’t have a wood pizza oven (yet) we are making pizza tonight in my son’s Big Green Egg. Hope to make the ricotta this weekend and then try to recreate the calzone. Thanks for all the cool things you show us!

    • Julie
      May 13, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      Pizza in a Big Green Egg! Cool!!

  3. Jo
    May 13, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    I make this every so often with cultured buttermilk without the lemon juice or vinegar. The buttermilk has the right amount of acidity. I always forget about the whey in the back of the fridge, though.

  4. Karen @ The Food Charlatan
    May 13, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial Julie, I’ve been wanting to make ricotta forever! It looks so pretty, I’m not sure how you managed that. 🙂

  5. Jules @ WolfItDown
    May 14, 2014 at 2:26 am

    This looks wonderful Julie, I had no idea it was this easy to make ricotta! I remember in primary school, our teacher showed us how to make cottage cheese, and it was deliious, although I wasn’t familiar with that slightly lumpy texture. I might give this a go, I am really tempted too! Do you have any reciped for baked goods you’ve made with the whey that is leftover? Or is it just like using water/milk?

    I hope you have a lovely day 🙂 x

  6. Laurie from Richmond
    May 14, 2014 at 10:14 am

    That’s the same way we made cottage cheese when I was a kid. How do you get it to be smooth the way ricotta is instead of little lumps like cottage cheese?

  7. Julie
    May 14, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Laurie – it has the same texture as store bought ricotta – not big lumps like cottage cheese.

    Jules – I’m using it in Julia Child’s white bread now – will let you know how it goes! And yes, I just use it in pancake/muffin batter in place of some of the milk.

  8. Cookie Maker
    May 15, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Help! I quadrupled your recipe, with a big jug of whole milk from Costco. . . .and followed the instructions. … 190 degrees, lemon juice. Waited 10 minutes. . .. Got excited when I saw curds floating on top. . . . strained in cheesecloth. .. noticed there was still a lot of “milk” as opposed to curds and whey. . .. kept pouring . .. . stupidly poured out the milk . .. . wasted . . . .left with less than 1/2 cup of ricotta!! What just happened??! Should I stick with smaller batches next time? Does the recipe not allow for multiplying amounts? 190 degrees means just short of boiling, right? (I don’t completely trust my thermometer). . .. so lots of steam, very hot milk just starting to bubble on top? So disappointed!! Any guidance would be much appreciated. Thanks so much. I love the idea of making my own ricotta and don’t know what went wrong.

  9. CourtneyNYC
    May 18, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    So, I was very excited about making this recipe and it was a total fail. I poured four cups of whole milk into a saucepan, added a little salt, and consistently stirred until the milk steamed. I turned the burner off, added 3 Tbs of lemon juice, let sit for ten minutes, and then poured the mixture into a colander lined with cheesecloth. And that when things really caput. Milk was straining through, opposed to whey. I ended up with about two tablespoons of ricotta when it was all said and done. 🙁 What did I do wrong? Was there something wrong with the lemon juice I used. I mean, it came right from a lemon. Or perhaps the temp was off? Should I have left it on the burner longer? I mean, I was fairly cautious to keep it from boiling. I know I can totally do this. Please let me what I did wrong so I can give this another go.

    • Julie
      May 21, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      Oh no Courtney! Did you use a thermometer and bring it up to the right temperature? or just heat it until it steamed?

  10. CourtneyNYC
    May 24, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Thank you for your reply, Julie. I went to the store and bought a thermometer .. long overdue! I gave it another go and it worked! We enjoyed amazing homemade ricotta with a fresh homemade banquette. Yum! Thank you for the recipe. It’s a keeper, for sure!

  11. www.traveltabloid.co.uk
    June 26, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    ohh great! what a nice, easy recipe of ricotta made at home!!! it’s too amazing and simple.. lots of love for you dear Julie

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