My first memory of ricotta wasn’t pleasant. I remember thinking that the cheese was tasteless and had a consistency of something akin to white mud rather than some wonderful food concoction. Fast forward about 20 years and I’m in love with ricotta (and the associated ricotta recipe) and value its subtle flavor profile and creamy texture (not to mention it’s versatility). Note to parents: introduce as many distinct foods to your young kids as early as possible!
On the versatility front, ricotta can be used as a spread on crunchy slices of bread, as a simple sauce for linguine (with plenty of fresh ground pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and grated cheese), and, of course, baked with tomato sauce, pasta, and a good melting cheese like mozzarella (here’s my lasagna recipe).
Making ricotta at home should be made mandatory in my view given the tasteless junk sold at most supermarkets and the outrageous premium “gourmet markets” charge for homemade ricotta. Ricotta is very easy to make and it stores fairly well. My mother makes homemade ricotta about oncee per month and you can make it more often if you’d like, especially if your carton of milk is about to expire! Here’s a quick and easy recipe:
- Heat one gallon of whole milk in a large pot (it's important to use whole milk) until it reaches about 200°F and transfer milk to a clean pot so that it can cool to about 100°F
- Add 2 tsp of kosher salt and stir well
- Add ⅓ cup plus 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar and stir gently.
- At this point, you'll notice curds will begin to form (this is good). Mix and then cover the pot with a clean dish towel and let sit for about two hours.
- After the ricotta has rested for 2+ hours, take cheesecloth and place it over a colander and ladle the ricotta into the colander. Drain as much as the water from the mixture as desired (depending on your preference for how creamy you'd like your ricotta). You can also lift the cheesecloth and create a small bundle and squeeze out any excess water (this will get most of the water out and yield a super rich ricotta!). Ricotta will stay fresh for about a week in your fridge.