Fresh whole milk “ricotta” is, yes, something that can be homemade. It’s a cheater’s version, but it comes close to being the creamy, authentic, traditional stuff you’re accustomed to buying at the store. And it calls for just milk, yogurt, lemon juice, and salt.
Can You Really Make Creamy, Authentic, Traditional Ricotta At Home?
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 they refer to isn’t ricotta, per se. It’s cheater’s ricotta made by souring milk with a little lemon juice rather than slowly simmering the whey leftover from cheese making. It’s satisfyingly 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. (And you may be thinking it looks a little dry in the photo. The cheese pictured 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.)
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
- Quick Glance
- Quick Glance
- 30 M
- 2 H
- Makes 12 (1/3 cup portions)
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 an instant-read or candy thermometer, at least 15 minutes and as long as 40 minutes.
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.
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.
Use a skimmer to carefully lift all the ricotta curds out of the whey and transfer them to a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl.
Let the ricotta drain for about 1 hour and 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. Originally published March 23, 2012.
How to make homemade ricotta with slightly less fuss
One of our recipe testers, Jenny Howard, has made this recipe countless times. And recently she tried it without the added trouble of monitoring and maintaining the 190°F temperature over hot water. She simply brought it to temperature as instructed in step one, added the additional ingredients in step three, turned off the heat, and let it sit for 25 minutes without stirring.
And what results was still quite lovely. As she explains, “It formed large curds perfectly well and was easy to lift out of the whey at the end of the rest. I’m not sure if I’m imagining it or not, but I vaguely remember the first batch (with the 190°F carefully maintained) being a bit lighter in texture and more airy, but it has been a while since I made that first batch and that could just be a confabulation.”
So there you have it. When time (or the kids) are pressing down on you, you can make things a little easier for yourself with barely a discernable shift in quality.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
I was lucky to be in one of the 8 states that allows retail sales of raw milk and I purchased raw goat milk to try with this recipe—and it was a huge success! The homemade cheese is very perishable and I cannot vouch for being able to keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, in either its plain or its marinated state. It disappeared long before then.
I used only the lemon and no yogurt, and I salted it at the very end because I wanted to experience the goat milk version in its purest form initially. After 15 minutes, I felt I had enough curds to proceed and transferred then. I then took this cheese and made the Goat Cheese with Olives, Lemon, and Thyme without the olives and it was lovely and extra-much appreciated because the cheese was homemade!
I chose to make this recipe because I needed ricotta cheese for another recipe. The use of the yogurt both intrigued me and made me question whether or not I wanted to give up one ingredient in favor of creating another. Since I still had plenty of my homemade yogurt, my curiosity won.
I used 1 gallon (3.8L) of pasteurized 3.25% milk. My salt was fine sea salt. I used homemade skim milk yogurt with active culture that was strained to Greek yogurt consistency. I warmed my refrigerated milk to 190°F over 40 minutes in a double boiler (7 on induction cooktop). This is the usual time for me when working with cold milk, not 15 minutes as stated in the recipe. After draining for an hour, my “ricotta” was still warm, it was creamy with a hint of sweet and tangy goodness. In a time where conservation of ingredients is more important than ever. I’ve made ricotta before with just lemon juice or citric acid, I’m still not sure that the yogurt addition greatly enhanced the yield or the flavor of the finished product. Enjoyed some of the cheese while still warm piled on toasted ciabatta bread with fresh tomato, crushed olives, and olive oil... such a treat!
Making a lasagna today, day 3, and it’s still creamy and delicious. Perhaps the use of the yogurt assists its shelf life or, in this case, refrigerator life. Used some of the whey in my morning smoothie. Stored the remaining whey in the fridge for bread making.