If you have ever eaten lasagna or cannolis you know how indispensable ricotta is in many recipes. Ricotta has become common enough to find in most grocery stores, but it might only come in small packages — and might set you back a bit.
So why not make it yourself? There are only four ingredients. You can go from cold milk and cream to warm ricotta in less than 20 minutes while preparing several other items.
Quality milk makes quality cheese. Milk and cream from a great local dairy might make a ricotta that is much better than anything you can buy labeled as ricotta in a container at the store. By making it yourself, you also have control over the amount of fat in the cheese.
The recipe below is a 4 parts milk, 1 part cream ratio, but you can tweak that slightly to your desired taste.
You need acid to curdle milk and cream. You can use citrus, vinegar or rennet. The addition will separate the homogeneous mixture and help form the curds. The mixture of milk and cream is more susceptible to curdling when heated.
Bring the mixture to a simmer, add lemon juice and reduce the heat. After about 30 seconds, you will see the mixture start to separate. The longer it is left on the heat, the larger the curdles.
You can use a regular strainer, but this might not provide the yield that you would like. Using a coffee filter may take a little longer to drain, but it will increase your yield. If you have coffee filters on hand, they work great, especially if you have a cone-shaped filter. Try turning the filter inside out, it will stay in the strainer much better.
If you are looking for something more simple to make than lasagna or cannolis you can use the ricotta for a number of other dishes. Try using it on pizza, flat breads, as a dip, with your scrambled eggs or as a filling or sauce for pasta.
The liquid left after straining off the curds (ricotta) is the whey. Many will discard this liquid without thinking twice. However, it can be refrigerated and used fresh within a few days or frozen for later use.
This is a great flavorful liquid that can be used in almost any application where water or milk could be used and the ricotta whey brings its own unique flavor. It works great in polenta, soup, pizza dough, panna cotta or risotto. It has a slight acidity that adds its own uniqueness to the dish.