Fresh Whole Milk “Ricotta”

We make ricotta all the time. It couldn’t be easier. Ricotta means “twice cooked” in Italian because traditionally it’s made from the whey left when making mozzarella. We have used raw milk, goats’ milk, organic milk, and supermarket milk, and it works out just fine.–Melissa Hamilton | Christopher Hirsheimer

LC A Ricotta by Any Other Name Isn't Ricotta Note

To echo authors Hamilton and Hirsheimer, it couldn’t be easier to make your own ricotta. And to quote The New York Times and their Diner’s Journal blog, “Thinking about making ricotta is only marginally easier than actually making it.”

Although let’s clarify one thing. What the authors and the NYT refer to above isn’t ricotta, per se. It’s, well, cheater’s ricotta. Or what we refer to as “ricotta.” (Any time you make “ricotta” by souring milk with a little lemon juice rather than slowly simmering the whey leftover from cheese making, it’s only right to use air bunnies around the term.) Whereas this cheater’s ricotta is similar to real ricotta in appearance, taste, and texture, it’s just not quite the same as can be had from the real deal. Close. But not the same. Oh, and why is it dry looking? The cheese is well-drained for use in ricotta cheesecake. For softer curds, skim the curds immediately from the pot and don’t let them drain as long.

Still, it’s a quick fix for when you’re feeling lazy or your craving for cheesecake just can’t wait. If what you want is true ricotta prontamente, no air bunnies, sidle over to a proper cheese counter or a dairy farmer at your local greenmarket where you can find tubs of fresh, creamy, luscious, artisanal ricotta loveliness. (Remember that nursery rhyme about curds and whey? We have to say, we only recently realized how savvy Little Miss Muffett really was.)

Any extra “ricotta” or ricotta that’s left in your fridge from your intended use can be drizzled with honey and spooned up for breakfast, slathered on crostini and dribbled with a heady olive oil, tossed with freshly cooked pasta and herbs or vegetables, and…shall we go on? We think you get the idea.

Fresh Whole Milk Ricotta Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 2 H
  • Makes 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 to 3 lemons)

Directions

  • 1. Make a double boiler out of 2 large pots, pouring enough water in the bottom pot to come at least halfway up the sides of the top pot. Pour the milk into the top pot and heat over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 190°F (88°C) on a candy thermometer, about 15 minutes.
  • 2. Add the salt, yogurt, and lemon juice to the milk, and stir with a wooden spoon for about 30 seconds to mix everything together. Reduce the heat to low or turn it off.
  • 3. Maintain the milk’s temperature at 190°F (88°C) for the next 25 minutes, lifting the pot out of the water if the milk gets too hot and returning it as the temperature drops. Whatever you do, DO NOT stir the milk while the ricotta curds are forming. After 25 minutes, use a skimmer to carefully lift all the ricotta curds out of the whey and transfer them to a fine-mesh strainer (no need to use cheesecloth) set over a bowl.
  • 4. Allow the ricotta to drain for about 1 hour, then pour off any of the drained whey from the bowl and gently dump the ricotta from the sieve into the bowl. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
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Comments
Comments
  1. Greg Bulmash says:

    Been doing this for years, except using heavy cream instead of yogurt, and not cooking as long. I press the ricotta to drain more whey from it, then add cocoa and sugar.

    The chocolate ricotta can be eaten straight, or is AWESOME in Gale Gand’s ricotta fritter recipe.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Love this, Greg. Especially using cream in place of yogurt. Always a lovely swap…

  2. Carmen says:

    I’ve been making my own ricotta for two years now and not only is it super easy, but it makes a superior product. AND it’s impressive to your in-laws!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Carmen, we are ALL ABOUT that last part. Well, the super easy and superior parts, too. But especially the last part. Thank you!

  3. george says:

    “Ricotta” is a misnomer, it’s rather a quark cheese, or a fromage frais. “Ricotta” means “recooked” and is made of whey.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Thanks, George. We love the etymology of all things culinary. And yes, there are quite a few misnomers in that category…

  4. Nene Adams says:

    No yogurt in my fresh ricotta, just 2 liters whole milk, 150 ml heavy cream, salt, and lemon juice. I never use a double boiler, just regulate the heat very carefully so the milk proteins don’t scorch – but then again, I usually only cook the milk for a few minutes, not 25 minutes, and I get very soft, tender curds. Does cooking for such a long time yield a tougher curd?

    Nene

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Nene, that sounds lovely as a quick fix rendition of ricotta. Honestly, we’ve never tried it this way, so we can’t speak to the relative tenderness of the curd, although perhaps someone else out there has experienced this method and can chime in?

  5. vel says:

    am I missing it or is there no way to know how much a gallon of milk will give out as ricotta?

  6. Alex says:

    I am making the Canal House Roman Cheesecake (and homemade ricotta) for Easter next week! One question…can I use Greek (Fage) yogurt? Would 2% yogurt be okay, or is it best with whole? Thanks!

  7. I’m confused. Is it true that real ricotta and “ricotta” have the same taste, texture and composition? It just seems like the chemical process to make real ricotta is very different from that of “ricotta” so the outcome shouldn’t be the same. And when you say that the cheater’s “ricotta” is close but not the same, what exactly do you mean?

    • David Leite says:

      Hi Addie. True ricotta is made from the leftover whey of cheese production. Once the curds (made up of mostly the protein casein) have been coagulated and removed, the whey, which is rich in other proteins, is left for a while then recooked, hence the term “ricotta,” and the cheese is formed. This version here is similar to a paneer that uses an acid to coagulate full-fat milk. Many people feel it has the same taste and mouth feel, some don’t. (You’ll notice the photo shows a drier cheese–that’s because it’s needed to make the ricotta cheesecake recipe that accompanies it.)

      Interestingly, I had dinner recently with Guliano Hazan, son of Marcella, and he told me he knows of cooks in Italy who make ricotta by cooking full-fat milk until curds are form.

  8. Ariel says:

    I just made this and am happy and sad. I have a personal stake in a very happy cow and had two litres of her milk now that here calf has been weaned off. So, I am happy to use her milk while she is still lactating. However, I was so dismayed to figure out how much milk it takes to make so little ricotta – dairy is cruel.

    The recipe was successful however, I had some questions: the ricoitta seemed to happen almost instantly. Is there a need to leave it sitting in the heat for 25 minutes? Is there anything that can be done with the whey that is left-over as there is a lot? I would hate to waste it. BTW, it was as easy as pie to make. Mine is quite dry and I’m wondering if, whether I scooped out sooner from the whey would have made it a little moister. Thanks. Love your site by the way. Have made many a successful recipe from it.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Ariel, how wonderful that you have access to fresh milk and what a great question! I wonder if your curds formed more quickly because you were using raw milk? The commercial pasteurization process may destabilize the whey proteins and impact curd formation. As far as the leftover whey, you might using it in your baked goods. Thank you so much for your lovely words about our recipes.

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