About a decade ago, I remember speaking with a friend about her lasagna recipe. Raised in an Italian family, her lasagna was the best I had ever had, especially the ricotta. I asked what brand she used. Her reply was, “Where do you buy your ricotta?”
At that time, I thought that was an interesting question. I replied, “The grocery store.”
Thus, my education on purchasing better ingredients began. She explained that she purchased her ricotta at a local Italian specialty food store that had homemade ricotta, lasagna noodles, and more. While it meant a 30 minute drive to purchase the ricotta, the flavor and texture made it worth the effort.
Since that time I have become more interested in experimenting with recipes at home. (Having a family that enjoys the experiments helps!) Over the last year I have played with different recipes for ricotta. The one that I am sharing today has had the greatest success. It produces a silky soft cheese that could be eaten directly from the bowl.
There are a few notes of importance:
- Timing how long to drain the ricotta is the hardest part. You don’t want too much moisture left, but you also don’t want your ricotta to be dry. However, ricotta is forgiving. If it is too dry, you can add an egg to it, as long as you will be cooking it.
- Making homemade ricotta is more expensive than buying a container at the store.
- Homemade ricotta is a great special occasion ingredient. Serving it to guests makes quite an impression.
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Combine ingredients in a large sauce pan over medium-low heat until simmering. Once simmering, allow to cook for several minutes, or until the milk solids (curds) rise to the surface.
- The entire surface should be covered with the curds. Leave the pot on the burner but turn off the heat; let stand for 15 minutes.
- Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth. Use a large spoon to remove the curds from the pot and place in colander.
- Once all solids have been removed, pour remaining liquid (whey) over ricotta.
- Allow all excess liquid to drain.
- If draining is slow, place the colander on a plate and finish draining in the refrigerator. (The draining process can be as fast as 15 minutes or as long as an hour.)
- Once drained, the ricotta can be used in a recipe or stored in a covered container.