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Fresh, Homemade Ricotta, step by step — so simple!

April 6, 2008

I realized after I posted my little lemony ricotta cheesecakes that I got a little ahead of myself. I’m not sure why I didn’t post this first, but no matter –I hope you’ll be as excited about this as I am!

See, for the past month or so I’ve been making little batches of homemade ricotta cheese. And I will tell you this: it is DEAD easy. All you need is some milk, heavy cream, a lemon, and some salt; plus, a colander to drain the cheese. It takes all of about 15 minutes, and the result is so much better than anything you buy in the store. It’s creamy, has a wonderful mild flavor, and lacks the watery runoff that so many of the supermarket brands of ricotta have. I’ve been using it on pizzas, in the ricotta cheesecakes, mixed with some yogurt, and in a few other dishes that I’ll post over the next few days.

I mentioned in my “5 things” meme that cheesemaking was a hobby I eventually would like to take up — I’m not really sure why it took me so long to start doing this ricotta, since it’s so easy! I came across the recipe by accident one day when I was browsing epicurious (this eats up a lot of my time, I’m afraid). You can view the original recipe here, but I thought I’d take you step by step through the process in pictures.

I should say two things before I start:

(a) I haven’t yet tried it with anything other than whole milk. If you want to try a lower-fat version, some of the people commenting on the recipe said they used 1% milk successfully. I usually make this cheese when I have whole milk leftover from another recipe, since we only drink skim milk.

(b) The recipe as listed on epicurious makes about 2 cups. I’ve been halving the recipe to make smaller batches, as I find it’s a bit easier to drain in my small colander, and it gets used up more quickly this way. The recipe I list below is the halved version.

Now…onto the process!

After I measure out the milk, heavy cream, salt, and lemon juice, I set a small colander in a bowl and line the colander with cheesecloth. (Note: after doing this a few times, I really think you could probably get away without the cheesecloth, as long as your colander doesn’t have really large holes — though, the cheesecloth does help when squeezing out some of the whey at the end, but you could mickey-mouse your way around by tilting the colander and maybe pressing gently on the curds with a spoon.)

Now I add the milk, cream, and salt to a medium saucepan and heat it over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula to prevent the bottom from scalding. I have the lemon juice in a little bowl nearby. When the milk reaches a steady simmer, I dump in the lemon juice and give it a quick, gentle stir with my spatula. You’ll see it immediately start to curdle; I usually turn the heat down a bit so it doesn’t reach a hard boil.

The first time I made this, I followed the directions of the recipe and stirred it continuously for 2 minutes after adding the lemon juice, but I found this created harder, rubbery curds. Now, I just add the lemon juice, quickly give it a gentle stir just to combine, turn down the heat slightly and LET IT SIT for about 1 minute. I’ll then give it another gentle stir with the spatula, and let it sit for another minute. After about 2 minutes of gentle simmering, most of the curds will have separated from the whey.

Now you’ll dump this mixture into your colander.

You can pick up the cheesecloth and tilt it a bit to help drain off the whey.

Let the curds drain for 1 hour in this colander at room temperature. Transfer the cheese to an airtight bowl and keep it in the fridge.

Like I said above, I have a few recipes to share with you that I’ve made using the homemade ricotta…so stay tuned for those over the next week or so!

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Fresh, Homemade Ricotta

From Gourmet, April 2006

The ingredients listed below will make about 1 cup’s worth of ricotta, which is half the original recipe. It doubles easily.

Ingredients
1 quart whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions
Combine the milk, cream, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Separately, line a colander with cheesecloth and set it in a large bowl. Measure out the lemon juice and set it aside.

Bring the milk mixture to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring occasionally with a spatula to prevent scalding. Once the mixture has reached a steady simmer, add the lemon juice and stir gently with the spatula — quickly, just to blend. Let the mixture sit for about 1 minute, turning down the heat slightly so it stays at a simmer but doesn’t reach a hard, rolling boil. Stir with the spatula after about 1 minute, then let it sit another minute until it looks like most of the liquid has separated into curds and whey.

Drain the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined colander set over a bowl, and let it drain at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer the ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate.

Makes about 1 cup.

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52 Comments leave one →
  1. geektress permalink
    April 6, 2008 11:36 am

    Wow! That seems so much easier than I thought it would be.

  2. April 6, 2008 12:03 pm

    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  3. April 6, 2008 2:41 pm

    Whoah, yeah! Thank you!

    Despite my dairy intolerance, I’ve been fussing with homemade yogurt for years and have moved on to sour cream. It seems as though home made, cultured whole milk products just “sit” with me better.

    A tablespoon of yogurt (natural, organic if possible, with the little probiotic beasties in them) in a cup of milk, heat it up till you can only hold your finger in it to the count of six (hotter will kill the beasties), keep pot in a warm-ish place for a day and you get yogurt.

    I’m scatterbrained and kept on letting the milk boil so I bought a yogurt maker (link below). Cheap, easy and effective! It’s already paid for itself and I’ve had it only a few weeks. I also use it to make sour cream: Just a tablespoon of buttermilk to a cup of milk, warm it up a bit, let it sit in the fridge a few days and voila.

    I also bought a yogurt strainer (I was using kitchen towels, ew, messy and gross) to make them store-bought consistency and discovered, hey, whey! What to do with the whey? Cheese? Really?

    Next are real cheese and bread! With GMO foods and food prices being what they are, this will eventually be the cheap way to get good organic and non-GMO dairy products, believe it or not. Also, gas prices are probably going to cause problems with distribution/supply as truckers stop turning profits . . . if you know how to make food yourself you’ll never run out, yes? Just find a local (organic if you can find it) dairy and/or mill.

    http://www.organiclivingplus.com/category/3008182101/1/Body-Ecology.htm

  4. April 6, 2008 3:20 pm

    Ooooh, I’ve gotta try this! I didn’t know you could make ricotta right at home–fascinating!

  5. April 6, 2008 5:09 pm

    Wow, I had no idea that this was so easy. I’m definitely printing this out. Great job- this is the kind of stuff that I love to see on a blog :)

  6. April 6, 2008 6:00 pm

    This *is* easy! Now there is never any excuse for anyone to use cottage cheese instead of ricotta just because it’s not available where they live.

  7. carolina permalink
    April 6, 2008 8:43 pm

    amy that looks so good…i am already envisioning homemade ricotta filling,for cannolis! have you ever made fresh mozzarella…not so difficult and hands-on fun!

  8. mexigaf permalink
    April 6, 2008 11:22 pm

    Looks like fun! Have you tried with other milks? I have goats milk and unpasteurized cows milk available locally so I’ll def give it a go.

    • florence permalink
      April 19, 2010 2:00 pm

      I heard its unsafe to use unpasteurized cows milk. If you try this would you kindly let me know if its safe. Is it the same as RAW cows milk?

      • Marie permalink
        May 9, 2011 11:37 am

        usually it is the same if it is also nonhomogonized.
        Because you do scald the milk it is probably safe.
        I drink only raw milk and I have never gotten sick!

      • Brittany permalink
        August 9, 2011 3:11 pm

        I have had milk straight from the cow, it is delicious. As long has you have healthy cows, I don’t forsee a problem with it.

  9. April 7, 2008 9:26 am

    Wow, I can’t believe it actually looks pretty simple to make cheese, at home! Very impressive, it must be so delicious on pizza!

  10. April 7, 2008 12:25 pm

    This is perfect!
    I’ve been meaning to make ricotta, too, ever since I saw an article about it on Donna Hay magazine. I just need to buy muslin.

  11. April 7, 2008 7:56 pm

    Who knew it was so easy?
    I will give this a try next time I have whole milk leftover too.

  12. missbebop permalink
    April 10, 2008 1:06 pm

    THIS IS A LOVELY RECIPE I’VE TRIED IT BEFORE!!

  13. May 2, 2008 6:36 pm

    May I make a suggestion? I make this kind of cheese often and usually don’t use cheesecloth. Take a paper towel and line your colander. Wet the towel so it will stay in place when you pour in the curds and whey. It works perfectly and you just toss the towel after you dump the cheese in a bowl. Excellent job with all the photos, by the way!

  14. July 15, 2008 7:11 am

    feel like tryin,..will try this for sure nd let u knw..thnks for sharin,

  15. July 19, 2008 12:51 am

    hi, lovely recipe….I have a question here..
    what is the use of salt in this recipe? is it to make the whey ..bit salty? I was planing to make ricotta and use it in Indian sweets. I will wait for your answer.
    thanks,
    Lakshmi

  16. September 30, 2008 1:59 pm

    Good illustrations and recipe. Indians use this all the time to make paneer. Lakshmi I wouldn’t use salt if you plan to use for sweets or for paneer a little salt makes it more flavorful. But seriously the ricotta cheese is not the same as this- I don’t really know may be some authentic Italian can answer.

  17. bellaChristina permalink
    November 30, 2008 7:18 pm

    I was wondering..I was @ a friends house for breakfast and her mother made homemade ricotta..I was fascinated at this..as I love to cook and this was always a recipe I wanted to try..My question is we ate the hot ricotta..some ate it with a little sugar and some ate it with some hearty italian bread..Can I do the same with this recipe? If so do I drain it first and should I follow your directions for draining? I thought she served it right from the pot..But then again I am not sure…

    Regards
    Sammy…

  18. December 31, 2008 1:32 pm

    I’ve been wanting to try making my own for awhile now. Now I know I will for sure. Thanks for the motivation.

  19. January 4, 2009 12:13 am

    Yep, I just made it recently! So much lighter than store bought!

    Happy New Year!

  20. Cherian permalink
    June 4, 2009 1:11 pm

    I just made some, it looks great! Did you use bottled lemon juice, (aka ReaLemon) or fresh squeezed lemon juice, I wasn’t sure, so I used a combination. We’ll see how it turns out. I don’t think I got as much curd.

  21. Kell Brigan permalink
    June 16, 2009 6:48 pm

    My 2 cents — I’m still experimenting, but so far I’ve found that stirring while adding the lemon juice (or vinegar) results in a stringier curd than letting it sit. If you press the “stringy” results, you get something similar to string cheese, panir, or fresh mozarella (although this version doesn’t melt). I’ve used non-fat dry milk exclusively, with great results. Tastes amazing, and is amazingly inexpensive. I can’t wait to try adding herbs* or caraway seeds, etc. One could probably add some carrot juice to make it orangy if wished. This is such a superior alternative to the supermarket Frankenfood version of non-fat “cheese”!

    *One recommendation also is to make a strong infusion of the herbs, and then add the “tea” to the milk before making the cheese. Haven’t tried this yet, but it sounds reasonable.

  22. Kell Brigan permalink
    June 16, 2009 6:49 pm

    P. S. you can also line the collander or strainer with a paper coffee filter. Give it a good rinse (especially if it’s white paper), and you’re good to go.

  23. June 27, 2009 7:11 pm

    Hey there! I just made this and your instructions were very easy to follow, and it was too easy to make.

  24. bpb92 permalink
    July 21, 2009 3:46 am

    I’d never thought of making it myself until I read this. I jsut may give it a try. I hope I’ll I have time to come back and read more of your blogs soon.

  25. July 28, 2009 1:02 am

    Love your site. I didn’t dream you could make ricotta. My husband does the shopping and it is so much easier making things at home than explaining exactly what weird things I need for recipes. Thanks.

  26. Jim permalink
    August 9, 2009 10:40 am

    Nice job! Didn’t know that it was that easy.

    Thanks!

  27. September 9, 2009 8:16 pm

    Can you tell me what the calorie count is in the home-made ricotta cheese? Is it the same like the one in the supermarket?

    • September 10, 2009 6:49 am

      Christina – sorry, I’m afraid I don’t have a calorie count on this for you.

  28. September 11, 2009 10:43 am

    I will never buy store bought ricotta again. This took me less time than going to the store to buy it and it is absolutely divine! Thanks.

  29. Helene permalink
    October 5, 2009 5:04 am

    Hello from Goa, India!!

    Am just back to my pc after ‘hanging’ my version of Ricotta. I searched the web all morning reading the various versions and came across your site – loved the pics – for first timers it really helps! I made up the gallon of milk using UHT box milk (sometimes our fresh milk is adulterated so I tend to buy the box stuff if there is no buffallo available in the village) I used a ltr of cream and the balance of box milk – I stired in a tsp and a pinch of citric acid and left out the salt. I stirred continuously and used a thermometre but somewhere around 170 it started to resemble a volcanoe about to burst. It had thickened up heaps and had curdled but tiny lumps. Let it stand for about 30 mins – strained (throwing the whey in the compost) and it is now in a purple bit of organza as I didnt have muslin, kitchen roll or coffee filters! Looked fab! (Paneer is very different and you boil the milk first then squeeze lime and it forms a big lump which you can slice – it is not creamy – more like feta than ricotta, plus when u cook it – it doesnt melt). Thanks for the photos – they really helped. Add the salt afterward then you can use this for both sweet (cheesecake) and savoury dishes! Happy Cooking and eating!!!

  30. Chris permalink
    November 5, 2009 7:37 pm

    Hello from Medellin, Colombia!

    I can tell you there isn’t a decent Italian restaurant here in Colombia that can satify my desire for a good Italian lasagne. The lasagne here resembles a hamburger pie with tons of mozzarella cheese on top.

    The high end supermarkets here do import riccota but they charge over $10.00 for a 14 oz. container. Making ricotta from your recipe was so easy and more importantly, less expensive. About $3.00 for the same amount and it is absolutely perfect for lasagne. I love the reaction from my Colombian friends when they first try real Italian lasagna. Never any leftovers!

    Thank you for posting your instructions…..

  31. Karla permalink
    November 6, 2009 9:29 am

    Hello!

    I used this recipe to make ricotta gnocchi! Fabulous and easy! Never buying ricotta from the store again!

    Thank you very much!

    Karla

  32. REW permalink
    December 2, 2009 2:32 pm

    Your step by step photos are great encouragement for the novice. I’ve made ricotta a few times now and I on my last batch I let the milk and lemon juice sit for 15 minutes. I can’t say if this is the reason I was able to get more curds than I ever have before, but at least I know that if I was to forget about it for a bit the cheese would turn out just fine. http://foodworthy.wordpress.com/

  33. BBGG permalink
    February 13, 2010 5:09 am

    Thanks for this great recipe!

    One question: do you throw away the whey, or can it be used for other recipes?

    • February 13, 2010 5:09 pm

      I throw away the whey – I believe when you make some other cheese (i.e. hard cheeses) you can save the whey and make ricotta from it, but the whey left from making ricotta doesn’t yield much at all in the way of an additional batch of cheese. I’ve read some people use it in baking bread, to drink, water plants, and in soup – but I’ve never tried any of those things!

  34. Carlos Lara permalink
    March 11, 2010 5:59 pm

    Thanks for the recipe. I just tried it and, indeed, that’s ricotta. However, I doubled the recipe to 2 quarts milk, etc., and I ended up with the 1 cup that you say you get from just 1 quart of milk. Any ideas why such a drastic difference in yield?

    Thanks again!

  35. April 6, 2010 8:16 am

    I am so glad I found this blog! Thanks for the instructions, which helped me enormously. The first time I made ricotta, like you I followed a recipe to stir continuously, and the results were hard rubbery bits. Your instructions resulted in a beautiful creamy product that has entered my permanent recipe list. Thanks so much!

    Nene

  36. May 31, 2010 6:49 am

    Comlimenti ti è venuta bene la ricotta, è communque un prodotto non molto ricco di grassi, genuino e gustoso, anchio mi diletto
    col siero che mi rimane dalla lavorazione del pecorino,
    ne faccio 2 versioni ,
    fresca ed essicata.
    ciao Andrea

  37. kate permalink
    June 15, 2010 1:41 pm

    Awesome! I’ve wanted to start making my own cheese too… I think I even have the exact same little colander :) Thanks for sharing!

  38. Dude permalink
    September 16, 2010 5:59 pm

    I make this quite often. I get raves about the lasagna that I make with it. Left overs make a great spread on a bagel. Good stuff. Try it.

    JL

  39. April 14, 2011 11:54 am

    Farmer’s Cheese (ricotta) is very easy to make at home & is far superior in taste and texture. I made it with 3 different souring agents – I really liked how the Vinegar-based one turned out! I think you will find my Ricotta experiment fascinating – here is a link for you: http://cuceesprouts.com/2011/04/homemade-farmers-cheese/

  40. May 8, 2011 10:47 am

    Thank you for the step by step pictures
    they are really helpful

  41. May 20, 2011 3:18 am

    Thanks for the recipe! Looking forward to trying it out.
    I accidentally made ricotta one day while heating milk to make custard! Instead of (cow’s milk) cream, I used coconut cream, and voila, ricotta. Sadly I had started to throw away the curds before I realised they were yummy! Today I combined leftover whey from making labna (yoghurt cream cheese) with whole milk, got some curds.
    So looks like I’ve got 3 methods to compare- it’ll be fun!

  42. May 20, 2011 5:16 am

    I just tried this recipe and yielded about 2/3 cup of the creamiest ricotta I’ve ever seen!
    When I strained the whey, it still looked creamy (sort of like “regular” homogenised home-brand milk you get at supermarkets… makes me wonder what they actually do to the milk… I only buy a milk from a biodynamic farm — BD Farm if you’re in Australia), so back into the saucepan to repeat the process, without the salt. Ended up with another 1/2 cup of cheese, though less creamy and soft than the “first yield” (maybe because I accidentally left it brieflyto a roiling boil?)
    Both yields are addictive… I’m not sure I’ll have enough leftover to make a ricotta cheesecake! LOL
    Thanks again for sharing the recipe!

  43. Mary permalink
    June 19, 2011 7:32 pm

    I’ve made this ricotta a couple of times before and it was great. This time I added the lemon juice and nothing. No a curd to be found! What went wrong?

  44. Brittany permalink
    August 9, 2011 3:03 pm

    If you use whole milk, then you can skip the heavy cream. Ricotta is a delicious cheese.

    1/2 gallon whole (vit. D) milk
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    3 tablespoons of Lemon juice

  45. Debbie Newell permalink
    September 4, 2011 3:39 pm

    This is the same way to make Paneer, and Indian Cottage Cheese that is fryable and delicious in certain curry dishes. I’ve used 2% to make Paneer for years! You can either compress the cheese immediately after draining it and then frying it lightly, or you can use it crumbled in some Indian dishes, too.

    • Debbie Newell permalink
      September 4, 2011 3:41 pm

      Oops, a typo…AN Indian Cottage Cheese…sorry.

  46. March 21, 2012 3:28 pm

    Great blog and pictures! I’ve tried homemade ricotta so many ways and I have found that the one made with whole milk is the best. I’ve also made it with Lactaid Milk and it comes out great. I use paper towels instead of cheesecloth; only because the first time I did it I improvised and it worked nicely.

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