Sunday, July 31, 2011

Making Fresh Ricotta Cheese

A new favorite recipe I recently discovered is one for making fresh ricotta cheese. I've always been interested in trying to make homemade cheeses and this is my first endeavor. After reading the recipe and making it for the first time, I realized how simple it is to make and how much better it tastes when made fresh. Below is the recipe I found in one of my favorite cook books by my favorite chef Sarah Moulton - Every Day Family Dinners.

It is a great basic recipe and as I have discovered, it is very easy to make your own variation. I like mine with a little extra salt and some fresh ground pepper. The original recipe asked for whole milk, but as I drink skim milk, that is what I had on hand the next time I made it. I cut out a good amount of calories and I didn't even notice a difference in flavor.

Next time you go grocery shopping, pick up an extra quart of milk, some heavy cream and a lemon and you'll be ready to make your own ricotta. You can add fresh ricotta to any recipe you desire. In my next few posts a will share a few recipes that use ricotta that you are sure to love as much as I do. A Lemon Ricotta Gnudi and Roasted Vegetable and Ricotta Sandwiches.

Classic Ricotta (listed below) is made simply without any seasonings other than salt, however it is so simple and fun to try making your own variations that before you know it you'll have several favorites.
I have listed a few ideas below as well. This recipe is also very easy to double up, so if you want more than just one cup, simply duplicate the recipe as many times as you need to get the desired amount.

Ricotta Cheese

Makes: About 1 cup

Prep/Cook Time: 35-45 minutes


4 cups milk - whatever your preference

1/2 cup heavy cream

pinch of salt

1 1/2 tbs fresh lemon juice


Line a sieve with paper tiles or cheese cloth, place over a large bowl and set aside. In a medium sized pot (3-4 quarts), slowly bring milk, cream and salt to a rolling boil - stirring occasionally. Reduce to a simmer and stir in lemon juice. Let simmer until mixture curdles - about 2 minutes.

Pour mixture into sieve and let strain for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes. If you like your ricotta drier, let cheese strain for up to one hour. Remove cheese from strainer and place in a bowl. Serve warm or if not using right away cover and place in fridge. For freshest results use within 2-3 days. 

Here are some great flavor variations:

Roasted Garlic Ricotta - Add 4-5 cloves of roasted garlic and a large pinch of white ground pepper. Smash garlic into cheese season with white pepper and salt to taste.

Lemon Garlic Ricotta - Follow the above recipe for roasted garlic ricotta then add 2 tsp fresh grated lemon zest.

Herbed Ricotta - Add 1-2 tsp each of fresh basil, thyme and rosemary - finely chopped. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper.

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