This 30 Minute Homemade Ricotta is so good, you'll want to eat it with a spoon. With only 4 ingredients, you can make your own rich, creamy, and smooth ricotta cheese and you’ll never settle for store bought again!
Prior to developing this recipe for 30 Minute Homemade Ricotta, my only experience was store bought, grainy and watery ricotta. The thing is, The Boy has a physical need to routinely fill his body with mass quantities of ricotta cheese filled pastas. Manicotti, cannelloni, stuffed shells, ravioli, even lasagna are filled with a cheese I didn't want in my mouth. Then one night we went to a restaurant and they served us fresh ricotta on crostini. It was a game changer.
That night I had my first taste of a ricotta cheese so smooth it almost made me cry. It became a goal of mine to make a ricotta cheese as good as that one, so I could share in The Boy's love of cheese filled pasta. I went through much trial and error (so you didn't have to) to find my perfect ratio for my perfect Homemade Ricotta that is ready in only 30 minutes.
Traditionally, ricotta cheese is made from the liquid (whey) leftover from the cheesemaking process. Since most of us aren't making a lot of cheese at home, we're going to make ours with ingredients you probably already have at home.
- Milk I want rich and creamy ricotta. I want to see The Boy hold back tears when he tastes it. Whole milk gets us 90% of the way there. Don’t try to save calories or reduce fat by using a skim or non-fat milk. This is NOT the recipe to do that. The best thing about homemade ricotta is the creaminess and richness. Serve it with a nice salad. Feel better now?
- Heavy Cream For every 8 cups of whole milk, I add one cup of heavy cream. I said I wanted rich and creamy, and I'm going to get it with this. In one of my trials I tried adding more heavy cream, but it was so creamy that the curds literally melted away. This is the correct ratio.
- Salt This in no way makes your ricotta cheese salty. Used properly, salt makes whatever you're making just taste more like itself. Unless ordered to by your doctor, don't skip the salt
- Lemon Juice Many recipes call for the addition of vinegar, but I really love the flavor of lemon juice in my ricotta. It doesn't taste like lemon though. It tastes like... sunshine. I know, that sounds corny, but wait until you taste it. Then come talk to me.
There are only three steps involved in making ricotta: warming the milk and cream, adding salt and lemon juice, and straining the curds. 30 minutes to warm, creamy Homemade Ricotta. That’s it! I’ll explain what’s happening every step of the way and, at the end, you’ll feel like a pro!
Warming the milk and cream Bring milk and cream to a very low simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching the bottom of the pan. You want a good amount of bubbles on the edge of your mixture. If you’re an exact measurement kind of person, or it’s your first time and you want to be sure, use a thermometer and bring the milks to at least 185°F and up to 195°F (82°C - 90°C).
Adding the salt and acid
When the milk and cream come to temperature, remove the pan from the heat. Add the salt and stir.
Next, drizzle your lemon juice all over the surface of the liquid. Stir it very gently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to disperse the lemon juice throughout the mixture.
You’ll start to see clumping of the curds almost immediately. You will be very excited because delicious science is happening right before your eyes! What you're seeing is that, when heat and acid (the lemon juice) are applied to the milk, the proteins all clump together, leaving behind the watery whey (curds and whey! Little Miss Muffet!) This is the cheese forming! Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Curds will begin to form almost immediately.
Separating the curds
Using a ladle or a slotted spoon, gently lift the curds out of the pot and into a colander that has been lined with cheesecloth (save at least ½ cup of the whey liquid. I’ll tell you why below in the expert tips).
When done, fold the edges of the cheesecloth over the top and allow the cheese to drain for at least 30 minutes, and up to an hour, depending on how firm you want your cheese. I use a looser consistency for things like lasagna or if using as a spread and a firmer consistency for stuffing pasta or cannoli.
- If you find that the cheese consistency is firmer than you like, you can add back a little of the reserved whey and stir it in.
- You can store fresh ricotta in a tightly closed container for 4-5 days, but it won’t last that long 😊 Congratulations, you are now a Cheese Maker.
- If you find that your cheese didn't curd very well, it may be that the heat needed to be higher or it needed more acid. Place your mixture back on the heat and bring it to at least 195°F. Drizzle in another 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar. Curds should start to form very quickly. Remove from the heat and strain your ricotta out.
- Make sure your milk does not say "Ultra Pasteurized". Pasteurized is fine, but the process that makes it "ultra" changes the protein structure of the milk and it will not curd successfully.
There are the obvious uses for ricotta, as I mentioned above. It's wonderful in stuffed pastas, as a layer in your lasagna, and as the filling to cannoli, but there are simpler, and just as delicious uses. Fresh Ricotta is especially delicious at room temperature, just spread over lightly toasted bread and drizzled with a good olive oil and sprinkled with fresh herbs.
I occasionally stir a little honey into my ricotta and spread it on toast. With a shaving of dark chocolate and some toasted pistachios on top, or simply some fresh preserves, this makes for an easy, delicious breakfast. However you serve it, you’ll never look at store-bought ricotta the same “whey” again 😂!
(This recipe makes 2 cups of ricotta cheese)
Looking for more Italian food recipes?
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- Pantry Shelf Marinara
- Italian Frittata
Fresh Homemade Ricotta
- 8 cups whole milk ½ gallon
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- Bring milk and cream to a simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching the bottom of the pan. If using a thermometer, bring it to at least 185°F up to 195°F, or until there is a lot of steam and little bubbles at the edge of the pot.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Add the salt and stir. Drizzle your lemon juice all over the surface of the liquid. Stir it very gently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to disperse the lemon juice throughout the mixture. Allow lemon juice to work its magic for 10 to 15 minutes. Curds will begin to form almost immediately.
- Using a ladle or a slotted spoon, gently lift the curds out of the pot and into a colander that has been lined with cheesecloth (save at least ½ cup of the whey liquid. I’ll tell you why in a minute).
- Fold the edges of the cheesecloth over the top and allow the cheese to drain for at least 30 minutes, and up to an hour, depending on how firm you want your cheese. One hour will give you the consistency of most store-bought ricotta. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
The nutritional and caloric information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It does not assert or suggest that readers should or should not count calories, and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s or doctor’s counseling.