When I was a child I used to eat ricotta with a spoon, straight from the tub like some people eat yogurt. This may have had something to do with why I was such a chubby child. Nevertheless, I did eventually stop buying ricotta by the pint just to have on hand and now we only buy it when we are making lasagna. Or lemon ricotta pancakes…I should tell you about those sometime. But recently, on Serious Eats I came across an article for making homemade ricotta. I’d never thought to make homemade ricotta. The recipe on Serious Eats is for ricotta made in the microwave. Now, I own a microwave and it’s handy for reheating food; though not as well as in a skillet or in a covered dish set over a water bath; but it does the job. I’m just not into cooking in my microwave. Making cheese is cooking and to me that involves a stove, a pot and some stirring. I don’t want to make ricotta in the microwave no matter how foolproof the recipe is touted to be.
So I set out to find a more appealing recipe and I came across one on Simply Recipes by none other than David Leibovitz. He who lives in Paris (lucky!) must have a better recipe for ricotta. Right? I’ve never been let down by a David Leibovitz recipe so that’s the one I set out to use and to my delight it worked. And it was easy! Since I made ricotta that first time, I’ve made it several more times, that’s how easy (and addicting) it is.
Heat one half gallon of whole milk with one cup of whole milk yogurt and one teaspoon salt until hot but not boiling. The first two times I made this I used whole milk, happily, I have learned that it works beautifully with two percent milk. When the milk is very hot, just before a boil, add one tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice. The white vinegar makes a ricotta that tastes traditional. The lemon juice makes a ricotta that has a hint of citrus and a brightness that I think would work well in sweet or savory applications. I use whatever I feel like in the moment. Let the milk, yogurt and white vinegar or lemon juice boil gently for two or three minutes, stirring frequently. Watch carefully as it can boil over and make quite a mess.
When the milk is curdled, turn off the heat and let the ricotta rest for 15 minutes. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I read it as a tip somewhere and the thought is that you get a better yield if you let the ricotta cool a bit before straining. The recipe calls for you to pour the ricotta through a fine mesh strainer lined with several layers of cheese cloth. I didn’t. My strainer has a pretty fine, double layer mesh so I took a chance and poured the ricotta straight through. Slowly, it’s still pretty hot. I didn’t bother letting it drain very long because I wanted my ricotta to have a very creamy consistency because I like to spread it on just baked bread. You can let it drain over night for a drier ricotta. But then you’d miss the warm, creamy goodness of moist, just made ricotta. Do what you will, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
If you want to get all fancy, it’s lovely on fresh baked bread with a little olive oil drizzled on top and a sprig of thyme. Or you can do as I did when my little photo shoot was over and rip of hunks of bread and dip it right into the warm ricotta. That’s my heaven.
The next night I used the dough from my Artisan Bread baking class to make a pizza. Lightly smeared with olive oil, layered with ricotta and then topped with oven caramelized onions that I have taken to making by the pot and keeping in the fridge. Ricotta and caramelized onion eggs? Deeeelicious.