Ricotta Recipe

OK, so maybe I’m going a little nutty putting up a homemade ricotta recipe, but a.) not everyone outside of a major city can get fresh ricotta; b.) it’s amazingly easy, but, most importantly; c.) I’m a fermented dairy and/or cheese freak. You’ll need:

2 quarts whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Combine the milk, cream and salt in a large pot and gently bring it to the boil. Meanwhile line a large strainer with a double layer of cheese cloth. When the milk mixture is at a rolling boil add the lemon juice and reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir the mixture every now and again for about two minutes, until curds form. Place the lined strainer in the closest sink and pour the curds and whey into it. Allow the mixture to drain for at least an hour. Remove the cheese to a bowl, cover it and chill it in the refrigerator.

If you’re making ricotta cream for cannoli, place the strainer over a bowl, cover the cheese lightly with plastic wrap, and put the whole works in the fridge to drain overnight.

23 thoughts on “Ricotta Recipe”

    1. Hi Yasmin! You can chill it and drink it, I know that much. Ricotta is one of those cheeses that’s usually made with the leftover milk/whey from other cheese making processes. So by the time those last curds are formed, there’s not a whole lot left in there!

      – Joe

      1. I keep the whey to make bread with. Sub out an equal part of water. Gives a sort of tang to the bread.

  1. First off amazing site Joe, I’ve made a few of your recipes and they always come out great. I think my fav has to be the Brownies. I have a question regarding Ricotta. I see this recipe all over called Ricotta but I wonder. I’ve also seen a similar recipe called cottage cheese and, in a cheese book I read that Ricotta is italian for recooked as in recooked Whey from cheesemaking. So my question is how can this version also be ricotta if it’s actually made from whole milk…

    1. Hi Christine and thanks! I’m not a cheese making expert so someone who knows better may sweep in here and correct me. However as I understand it you can make cottage cheese two ways. The first is to apply rennet to milk which gives you a more classic large curd cottage cheese. The second is to apply acid and heat to milk, which gives you a small curd cheese that’s pretty much identical to ricotta. I’ll get more into the how’s and why’s of ricotta either later today or tomorrow!

      Thanks for the great question!

      – Joe

    2. Joe is right about the difference between large curd and small curd(which is pretty much ricotta). However, I can address the other part of your question.

      Traditionally, ricotta is made from the whey waste from making a hard cheese. The whey is reheated and acid is added, causing whatever protein is left to coagulate into ricotta, so nothing is wasted. If you do the same thing with whole milk(heat it and add acid) the same thing will happen to the protein, there is just much more of the protein to coagulate so you get more cheese out of it.

      It’s not traditional to make ricotta out of whole milk, but the product is the same, and it’s much easier and more convenient than making large wheels of hard cheese to get some ricotta!!

      1. Hey! You trying to use up all the material for my morning post? Sheesh!

        – Joe

        PS – You go right ahead. 😉

  2. Hi Joe!

    I’m really looking forward to your cannoli – this is something I’ve wanted to make for a long time, so the timing is perfect!

    I’ve made ricotta cheese a few times after the recipe in Bo Friberg’s book. In that, a few drops of lemon juice is mixed with milk and then kept chilled for 24 hours. Next day, the milk is mixed with unflavoured yogurt before cooking.

    What do you think the reason for the 24 hour “ripening” period is? Will if affect the yield, flavour or both?

    1. Hello Hans! That’s very interesting. I think it’s probably just an attempt to be efficient. Yogurt is providing most of the body, is my thinking. Having done it yourself, is the milk and lemon juice mixture very thick by the next day? Normally you need to add heat for the curdling. More on that tomorrow!

      – Joe

      1. Thanks for your quick reply, Joe!

        You’re probably right. Only a few drops of lemon juice are added to several liters of milk, so the mixture looks just like milk on the second day. It’s not before it’s heated up that it starts to thicken.

        1. I’ll keep thinking on that, and I’ll have a look at my copy of The Professional Pastry Chef to see if I get any additional insights. Thanks Hans!

          – Joe

    1. The only important thing to take away from that post is that she is using leftover whey.

      Whey leftover from cheesemaking will have live cultures still present. You can get to about the same place by adding buttermilk or yogurt to your milk and leaving it on the counter until you’re happy with the flavor.

      If you guys have never seen this site you’re missing out: http://biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser/cheese/cheese.html

  3. Putting cream into ricotta seems odd, and I think is what turns it into something different. Seeing as the real stuff is made with whey, from which all (hopefully) of the fat has been left behind in the cheese curds, your true ricotta should be as near as dammit to fat free. Which is not to say that this creamy fresh cheese will not be even more delicious than ricotta would be – just more fattening as well.

    1. Now me, I think ricotta is more about the process than the ingredients. The Sicilian grandma of my best childhood friend used a recipe just like this. Wow, was it good. But more on this in a minute! Thanks Bronwyn!

      – Joe

      1. I’ve made a fair bit of cheese of different sorts, and the differences in manufacture are incredibly small. Just a few degrees difference in temperature, or a small difference in curd size can make the difference between one cheese and another, as can different amounts of fat in the milk. Some cheeses are, by definition, low fat, and ricotta is one of them. Parmesan is another; it uses half whole milk and half skimmed – anything else and it’s not Parmesan. Edam is another low(er) fat cheese. See http://www.foodsci.uoguelph.ca/cheese/sectionf.htm#heatacid to compare recipes for three different heat/acid precipitated cheeses. The differences are small! The whole site is an excellent cheese resource for geeks, by the way.

        1. Thanks Bronwyn. I still maintain that ricotta is a process, not a fat percentage, but we can agree to disagree, no?

          Thanks for this, I’ll enjoy it!

          – Joe

  4. I made ricotta using a recipe very similar to this one, to excellent reviews from my wife and friends. However, I got rave reviews when I used this one from Food52:


    And as for the lowfat argument, while I am relatively new to cheesemaking, it appears to me that not all cheesemakers agree on what “real” ricotta is. So I think, indeed, that you and Bronwyn can agree to disagree. (Some people refer to cheese made by adding acid to milk as “farmer’s cheese.”)

    I’ve been dying to make “real” ricotta from the whey left over after making it by this process, but for now I just use it in place of water in my bread recipe — and it makes fantastic biscuits!

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