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Video:Ricotta Cheese from Scratch

with Katrina Vahedi

If you like store-bought ricotta cheese, then you'll delight in this fresher, preservative-free version. With just a couple simple ingredients, see how to make ricotta cheese at home.See Transcript

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Transcript:Ricotta Cheese from Scratch

I’m Katrina Vahedi for About.com, and today I’m going to show you how to make whole milk ricotta cheese.

Ricotta Cheese Characteristics

Ricotta is traditionally made with whey, which is the liquid remnant from making another cheese (traditionally a pecorino, in Italy), but most ricotta that you find in stores these days is made with whole milk. It’s sweeter and creamier than whey ricotta, and it’s a lot easier to make at home.

Homemade Ricotta Ingredients

  • 1 gallon Whole Milk,
  • 3/4 cup Lemon Juice,
  • Salt, a pinch (optional)
This ricotta is meant to be eaten immediately, as it’s a fresh cheese, so you don’t need any other preservatives or stabilizers. It’s always best to use freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Equipment Needed

  • a large, non-reactive pot
  • a colander or strainer
  • a non-reactive spoon
  • a very reliable thermometer (digital instant-read is preferable)
  • a measure of cheesecloth or flour sack cloth for lining your colander to strain the curd
  • a large bowl (if you want to save the whey from the ricotta)

Heat the Milk

Begin by pouring your full gallon of milk into the pot, and then turn the heat up to medium-high. If you would like to salt your ricotta, add a pinch now. Be ready with your non-reactive spoon to stir every so often to keep the bottom of the pot from burning. Heat your milk to exactly 190 degrees Fahrenheit (which is just before boiling), and then remove from heat. (Heat the milk slowly to prevent scalding.)

Let the Curds Set

Working quickly, add the lemon juice, and give it a few quick stirs to distribute evenly. Already you’ll be able to see the curds beginning to form. Let rest for five minutes, and resist the urge to poke your curds.While you’re waiting for your curds to set, line your colander with your cheesecloth or muslin, and set it in your large bowl if you want to save the whey.

Separate the Curds and Whey

Gently pour the curd into the cheesecloth, pouring off any excess whey (from the bowl below) so the curd is not sitting in the liquid. Let it rest like this for ten to twenty minutes.

Drain the Ricotta

If you like, tie the corners of the cheesecloth and hang your ricotta like this, which may make a creamier product. You can let your ricotta drain for up to an hour, but the longer it hangs, the thicker it will become. Continue to resist the urge to poke your curds, since more handling will result in a squeaky product. Unfold your ricotta from the cheesecloth, and at this point it’s ready to eat. It's especially delicious with fresh berries and a dab of honey (or as ricotta pancakes).

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