If the only ricotta cheese you have had has been from a container purchased at the grocery store, then you, my friend, haven’t had real ricotta cheese. Real, full-fat ricotta cheese is so creamy and delicious, not dry and grainy.
A long time ago I tried to make “skim-milk” ricotta at home (because back then I still thought fat was the enemy). It was a disaster. I determined that ricotta cheese cannot be made at home.
Boy was I wrong! It is so easy to make at home! As long as you do it the right way….with all of the fat.
Ricotta cheese is essentially just lightly curdled milk and cream, that is then drained of any excess liquid to make a creamy, soft, spreadable cheese (if you want a more scientific explanation, you can read this).
A traditional ricotta is made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. Unfortunately, neither of those are readily available (to me at least), so plain old cows milk (whole) and heavy cream will do just fine. The acid from the lemon juice will activate the curdling. However, you could also use white vinegar to achieve the same result.
Bring the milk and cream to a boil, then add the lemon juice. After about 30 seconds, you will notice that the milk will form small curdles. Continue to let the mixture sit for another minute or so.
After the milk has almost completely curdled, pour it over a cheese cloth lined strainer and let all of the excess moisture drain from the ricotta.
I actually used my favorite nut milk bag that I also use for making almond milk. I prefer this to cheesecloth because 1) it’s reusable, 2) it’s made from a very fine mesh, so none of the ricotta curds will slip through, and 3) it has a hand dandy drawstring closure.
After your ricotta has drained for about 30 minutes to an hour, it should look a bit like a cottage cheese-butter hybrid. Not too wet, like cottage cheese, but not super smooth like butter. Something in the middle.
Now you have yourself some delicious and creamy ricotta cheese that you can use to make lasagna, Italian cheesecake, or just spread on some fresh baguette slices for an easy appetizer.
You can save it for up to five days in the fridge. I wouldn’t try to keep it much longer since this homemade version has absolutely no preservatives. Another reason why it’s so good! But now that you know how easy it is to whip up, you can make it whenever you need it!