I always like learning how to make something from scratch. It’s really interesting understanding how something comes together and I’ve found it surprising how few ingredients most homemade items require. It’s a stark contrast to the ingredients listed on most packages.
I use ricotta in quite a few items… like this and this and this. And I’ve always heard that fresh ricotta is so much more delicious than store bought, but I always thought it would be difficult to make. I was wrong. It requires three simple ingredients, plus a dash of salt – and it’s really not time consuming, most of the time spent the ricotta is draining and doesn’t need your attention.
You start by mixing your milk and cream together with a little bit of salt and setting that over a stove until it just begins to boil. Then you mix in your lemon juice, letting that set just a minute, then strain with cheese cloth over a colander. Seriously – that’s it!
I let mine sit between 90 to 120 minutes. The longer it strains the less water content your ricotta will have, which makes for a thicker end result.
The only thing I was surprised at was the small amount of ricotta that was produced. For three cups of milk and a cup of cream, I was usually left with only a cup of ricotta. If you’re making a pasta dish, I would definitely double the recipe. I did feel like I was throwing so much of the drained liquid (the whey) out. I’m not sure how or what to use whey for, if anyone has any suggestions or recipes, I would love to hear them.
For appetizers or dishes where the ricotta is the star, I will probably make my own. I don’t think I’ll do it when making a big pasta dish like these shells because you most likely won’t be able to tell the difference and I hate feeling like I’ve wasting milk and cream.
It was still really interesting to learn the process and it did make for a ricotta that was thick, creamy and so very, very smooth.