How To Make Ricotta Cheese At Home
Ricotta cheese is widely used in Italian cooking in everything from appetizers to desserts. It is a very soft, low-fat cheese that is actually a by-product of cheese making because it is made from the whey that has been separated from the curd in the process of actually making cheese. It is in fact, technically a dairy product rather than an actual cheese because of this. Ricotta translates as “recooked” and was originally made in Rome when it was discovered that the whey could be reheated, then strained, thereby getting its name. Although any type of milk can be used to make ricotta, in southern Italy either sheep’s milk or goat milk is used most often. I however to make my ricotta, I used what was most readily available to me, which is whole cow’s milk.
Making ricotta cheese at home turned out to be even simpler than I expected, and I have now made it a number of times with very good results. Basically all you need to make ricotta cheese is whole milk and some type of acid to form the curds. I am including three different recipes for ricotta, using different types of acid. These include citric acid and vinegar which I have used many times in the past, as well as buttermilk which is one I have just recently tried and think I prefer. I thought the buttermilk gave the ricotta an extra depth of flavor I really enjoyed.
I like to use homemade ricotta cheese in both my Lasagna Magro recipe, as well as Ricotta Gnocchi which I top with a Gorgonzola cheese sauce, and both dishes are really delicious made with homemade ricotta. I have also created a tasty dessert using my fresh, homemade ricotta by simply adding enough sugar to sweeten it, some grated lemon zest and a few teaspoons of fresh, lemon juice. I served this with fresh berries and it too was very tasty. This ricotta will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week, or can be frozen. I did attempt this recipe with low fat milk, but the results were not favorable at all. The resulting cheese was rubbery and had an unpleasant gray color. Using whole milk, I found the ricotta I made creamy white in color, with a light, fresh flavor. The last time I made ricotta since I knew I was planning on using it to make a dessert, I added a cup and a half of heavy cream, removing the same amount of milk. The resulting ricotta was even creamier than on my previous attempts, and was just perfect for my cheesecake recipe.
Note: For best results, use a good quality whole organic milk.
Method One: (Yields 1 3/4 to 2 pounds Ricotta)
1 Gallon Whole Milk
1 1/2 Teaspoons Citric Acid
1 Teaspoon Salt
Place the milk, citric acid and salt in a non-reactive heavy pot and heat it to 195 degrees F. You will need to stir the milk occasionally to prevent scalding. Once the curds have formed and separated from the whey, turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 15 minutes. Line a colander or large sieve with two layers of cheesecloth, and pour the mixture into it. Let the cheese drain for 1 hour or until you have reached the dryness you desire. Store the cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Method Two: (Yields About 3 1/2 Cups)
1 Gallon Whole Pasteurized Milk
1/3 Cup White Distilled Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Salt
Heat the milk in a heavy, non-reactive pot until it reaches 185 degrees F. Remove from the heat and add the vinegar and salt. Stir gently just to mix. The curds will begin to form immediately. Cover the pot and let sit for 2 hours to allow the curds to fully develop. Line a colander with two layers of cheesecloth, and pour the mixture into it. Let the cheese drain for one to two hours depending on how dry you want your ricotta cheese to be. Store the ricotta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Method Three: (Yields 1 to 1/2 Pound)
1 Gallon Whole Milk
1 Quart Buttermilk
Combine the milk and buttermilk in a heavy, non-reactive pot and heat it until it reaches 180 degrees F., stirring occasionally. Once it has reached 180 degrees, remove from the heat and let it sit for 30 minutes to allow the curds to form. Lin a colander with two layers of cheesecloth, and pour the mixture into it. Let the ricotta drain for 1 to 2 hours and then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Note: The whey, or creamy yellow liquid that separates from the curds can be used in any recipe calling for sour milk or buttermilk.
Types Of Ricotta:
- Basic Rresh Ricotta, used in fillings for stuffed pasta, or as desserts, has a lumpy, soft consistency, and its creamy curds have almost a sweet taste. This is what we generally find available here in the US. Sheep and goat’s milk ricotta will have a nutty-sweet taste, while cow’s milk ricotta will have a milder flavor. Whenever possible, buy freshly made, premium ricotta. If unavailable, whole milk Polly-O, which is available in most supermarkets, is a reasonable substitute.
- Ricotta Forte is from the region of Puglia and is made in the same way, except that salt is added before the cheese is put in containers to cool. Over the next few months, the ricotta is moved from container to container, working it to remove excess liquid. The final cheese is yellow, with a sharp flavor.
- Ricotta Romana is made by cooking the cheese a little longer, giving it a more compact texture than other ricotta cheese. It is used in dishes both savory and sweet.
- Ricotta Infornata is a firm ricotta from Sicily, which has been dried and salted before it is covered in cracked black pepper.
- Ricotta Salata is salted ricotta that has been allowed to age and become firm. It is often served sprinkled on many pasta dishes, but is also great crumbled on salads, and sauted vegetables.
Tips For Using Ricotta:
- If your ricotta is watery, or seems very wet, it is a good idea to put the ricotta in a strainer and set it over a bowl in the refrigerator for an hour before using it. This is particularly a good idea when using ricotta as an ingredient in stuffing for pasta.
- To make a great spread for toast or quick breads, mix 2 cups of ricotta with four tablespoons of honey, and a teaspoon of cinnamon.
- Sweeten fresh ricotta with some honey or powdered sugar, and serve for dessert with fresh fruit.
- Fold half a cup of ricotta into spicy tomato meat sauce for a change of pace.
Revised January 2012
This is genius! Not something I ever thought you could make at home and yet here it is! You deserve a congratulations on this one!
Hi, I love the recipes Deborah shares and can’t tell you enough how much I enjoy cooking for my friends and family.
In India Paneer is made in the same way. And I’ve rarely bought it, it’s so easy to make!
I love tutorials as well as recipes and am happy to see one on ricotta. I can only imagine how superior it will be to the flavorless supermarket containers. The heavy cream for the dessert ricotta will be worth the extra calories! Thanks Deb!
This is the best thing ever! I used “method two” tonight, and though it might still be a tad bit watery, I’m well pleased with the results. (I’ll also take your tip to strain it before using it, which will indeed help) I’m excited to try the other two methods. Thanks ever so much!
Kim, it really shouldn’t be watery when you are finished. I’d suggest letting the mixture sit once the acid has been added until large curds form, and then letting it drain a little longer until it is creamy & smooth.
Can’t wait to try recipes, can I use lemon juice as my citric acid? Thankyou!
Yes you can.
How much lemon juice do i use?
The article states if you are using lemon juice (citric acide) a teaspoon and a half will work.
I have a similar recipe using 1 gallon milk and 2/3 cup of lemon juice from 3 medium lemons or so. I’m surprised to hear that so much less (1 1/2 tsp) will work!
Do you remove the curds after they separate, and just strain the whey itself, or leave the curds in and strain the whole thing?
The curds are the cheese, so you can either scoop out the curds with a spoon into a strainer, or carefully pour the whole mixture through the strainer retaining the curds.
They are great recipes for Ricotta, Ive been making it for awhile now and seems to be the best three ways I have found to make it . And when used for my homemade Ravioli’s,,,mmmm Mangia!!!
I tried method #2. and have approximately only 2 cups of ricotta. While The flavor is wonderful, I expected almost twice that amount.
Did I do something wrong that the yield is so low?
And what or how would I use the whey left over? Seems like there is so much of it.
I really enjoy your site and have tried many recipes. All with great success.
Thank you for your great inspiration.
The yield will depend on how much you drain the ricotta. You can use the liquid in soups, or oatmeal.
Hello, I used method 1, brought the mixture up to 195F, it never separated, only made foam. Once I decided it was not going to do anything else, I pulled it and let it sit for 15 min. Still nothing. What did I do wrong?
Sorry to hear you had problems. All three methods have always worked fine for me. Just make sure you do to use ultra pasteurized milk which is not the best for cheese making.
I have made ricotta using the citric acid (lemon juice) method probably a dozen times. Once, I also had the same problem Kiersten described. I have no explanation as to why the curds and whey never separated, because I do it the same way every time. Give it another shot, Kiersten – it was most likely just a fluke thing and nothing you did wrong. Don’t let it stop you from enjoying this delicious homemade cheese!
I made this and it turned out well and was so easy. The only thing I would think about changing is adding a little more salt. Do you think this would change the outcome in other ways besides taste?
This morning I tried Method 2, and the ricotta turned out beautifully! Now, I’m making plans for it! Thank you so much for sharing!
Well I was excited that I wasn’t going to have to go to the store before dinner, and then I realized I have no milk:( I think I will give this a try rather than buying some though
Deborah, great post. I make these versions of ricotta all the time. I mainly use the one that adds white vinegar, and for Passover, when we don’t use vinegar, I use lemon juice. I love to play with different ideas, adding freah herbs, and even making my own version of feta. The salata is wonderful to use kind of like a parmesan, grated. Sometimes I mix non fat milk with the whole milk for a lighter version, and even all non fat milk. The yield is much less but still delicious. For really luxurious desserts, I add cream, talk about decadent! So easy, and so delicious, once you have homemade, you won’t want to buy the grocery store brands. (My trick for not loosing too much in the cheesecloth: I purchased a few brand new, all white cotton tee shirts, wash them in hot, hot, water a number of times, and the cut them in lengths to use to drain the ricotta, also, if you let the ricotta cool a bit longer it is really easy to scoop out, or roll off the cotton sheets. I also freeze a lot of it so I always have some on hand.)
Mushi, thanks for the t-shirt trick. I may just try it!
You are very welcome. After I use them I just wash them really well in nothing but hot, hot water, and then hang to dry. Unlike cheese cloth it seems to really hold the curds and allows the whey to escape, not to mention that cheesecloth can get pretty expensive if you use a lot of it. Let me know if you try the tee shirts?
Hello! I’ve a question re the buttermilk method. What type of buttermilk should be used? The “cultured” type sold here in the US which isn’t really buttermilk at all, or real buttermilk…the liquid left over from making butter? Thank you!
Is this not same as the Indian Paneer? I have only heard of Ricotta but never seen or eaten. This is exactly how we make paneer in India.
what do you do with all the leftover liquid, the milk byproduct of the cheesemaking? Does anyone know it’s nutritional content or caloric value?
It is very nutritious. You can use it in soups or hot cereals.
In my Italian family we eat the homemade ricotta like soup. We scoop it into a soup bowl with some of the whey, add chunks of dry rustic bread and enjoy on a COOOOOOLD winter’s day. We save the leftover whey in jars & heat it in mugs whenever we want a hot drink free of fat & caffeine. However, this makes me gassy so I always take Beano or GasX just before indulging.
using method #2 (or simply boiling, which i learned a while back also works, and if you dont add any salt, it comes out a lot like sour cream!), at what point would you reccommend adding fresh or dried herbs to flavor the cheese?
oh, and i forgot, since i currently dont have any actual cheesecloth, i use coffee filters, which seem to work pretty well. (maybe too well? dunno)
also, i normally filter in the ‘fridge for various reasons, will that affect this recipe any?
Yes, do not steain too much or the ricotta will get dry and grainy.
I add herbs, or seasonings once I have the ricotta at the right consistency.
The whey, or creamy yellow liquid that separates from the curds can be used in any recipe calling for sour milk or buttermilk.
Can you reuse the buttermilkwhey to make more ricotta?
Paul, yes the whey can be used in soups, oatmeal etc. and is quite healthy. It cannot be used to make more ricotta as the fat has already been removed.
Thanks for sharing this. I had no idea ricotta was this easy to make. A friend of mine shared your page on my Facebook Groups page tonight in my “What’s For Dinner” post. Cheers! Mr.CBB
What is a non-reactive pan?
I have stainless steel pans, will it work?
Ceramic or glass are non-reactive. Metal pans are reactive.
just wanted to add that I add the cooled whey to my chicken feed each time I make cheese
the chickens seem to love it
keep up the great recipes
I really enjoy your blog, and how generous you are with sharing information.
Where I’m originally from, Italians have had a great impact on our local cuisine and much of our diet includes Italian food. I find that I truly miss it and it’s difficult to acquire the basic ingredients necessary for it where I live now.
Your blog allows me to put those ingredients together myself. I just wanted to say your blog is wonderful and has been truly helpful. I can’t wait to read more.
The whey also makes a great vehicle for marinating! Think goat milk
Ricotta and chicken pizza, marinate chicken pieces in the whey…fabulous!!
I have seen a similar recipe using half a gallon of whole milk, half a gallon of half and half, and one quart of buttermilk. Add salt and sugar and it makes the perfect base for cannoli filling!!!
Sounds great Meghan!
What an awesome article! Found it while trying to troubleshoot my first batch. Thanks very much for this.
I use the whey in making bread and biscuits, and some other baked goods.
I use baby muslins to strain with, they are so versatile and cheap.
Hi from Cyprus (Mediterranean ), read your post on ricotta with interest.
Here in Cyprus we have been making Anari ,exactly the same as ricotta,with sheeps or goats milk, for literally millennia,either unsalted or the salted version,which can be dried and hardened, a grated and mixed with dried mint onto any type of pasta, usually Cypriot spaghetti,which has been cooked in fresh chicken broth, the flavour is delectable.
The sweet Anari, is used in all types of dessert stuffings, such as bourekia, fine small,pastries,half moon shaped stuffed with a mix of Anari, sugar cinnamon rosewater, fried, until it puffs a little
then dusted with icing sugar, or as in most cases, drizzled with Cyprus fresh carob syrup, or with honey and walnuts, or the mix of sugar cinnamon rosewater version.
I have also made Ricotta, adding fresh herbs.
I found that if the curds did’nt seem to thicken , just add more lemon juice, it’s not an exact science, and all depends on quality and freshness of the milk used. I also added fresh cream to milk for added creaminess.
Hello, Thank you for your article on Ricotta Cheese. I have been looking for a recipe for Ricotta Forte, which you mention here, however, you do not give the amount of salt to add to the ricotta. Would also like to have a detail on the exact method to make this cheese.
Much appreciate it and looking forward to your reply.
I have never made ricotta salata so I am sorry but I can’t help.
Thank you for the choices. I make my own cultured butter and always have too much buttermilk, so I will try Method No. 3 today. NB: to the person complaining about only cultured buttermilk available at the store, that’s the real deal!