How to Make Homemade Ricotta Cheese

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Ricotta is technically not a cheese; it is a cheese byproduct. This is how it gets its name. Ricotta actually means “recooked” because the leftovers from making other cheese can be turned into ricotta in a few simple steps. Usually this would include the whey but that does not mean you cannot use whole milk. Avoid the hassle of making one cheese to get to another with this recipe, and have fresh ricotta at a moment’s notice.


Yield: 4 cups
Preparation Time: 45 minutes


1 gallon of whole pasteurized milk
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar
¼ teaspoon of salt (more or less depending on preference)


1. Rinse the pot you will be using with very cold water to prevent the milk from scorching. Be sure it is a non-reactive pot.

2. Add the milk to the pot and place on medium heat. Add a small amount of salt and stir.

3. Allow the milk to heat up slowly with occasional stirring. Steam will form above the surface of the milk and tiny bubbles will rise. Heat up slightly longer checking the temperature with a thermometer. You want the milk to be between 180-185 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. When the milk reaches the appropriate temperature, remove the pot from the burner. Add the vinegar. Stir gently for one minute only. Add the remaining salt. Use less if you intend on using the ricotta for a desert and more if you would like a saltier taste to another dish.

5. Curds will start forming almost immediately. Cover the pot with a clean and dry dish towel. Let the mixture sit for 2 to 3 hours undisturbed. (Many people who make homemade ricotta cheese perform steps 1-5 before work and allow the mixture to sit the whole while they are at work.)

6. Place a large piece of dampened cheesecloth over a colander, and place the colander over a different pot. Make sure the colander can settle on the top without falling in.

7. Use a slotted spoon to gently ladle the ricotta into the colander you have prepared.

8. After all the curds have been ladled, allow them to drain freely for about two hours. Drain it longer if you would like a drier cheese and shorter if you want a creamier cheese.

9. Grabbing the four corners of the cheesecloth, lift it up and twist gently to squeeze out the liquid. If the liquid runs clear, squeeze a little harder. Once the liquid runs a milky color, you do not have to squeeze anymore.

10. Put the fresh ricotta cheese into a tightly sealing container and refrigerate. The cheese will keep fresh for up to one week.

Ricotta cheese is basically the Italian version of cottage cheese and possibilities are endless. Fill shells, ravioli, or lasagna with ricotta and marina paste. Blend it with some jam or honey for a delectable fruit sauce. Add some garden herb cream cheese to create a classy chip dip. It is even possible to make a unique cheese cake with ricotta.

Now that you know how to make ricotta cheese, you also know how to make salata. Salata is a strange, often ignored cheese whose popularity is confined to Italy. All you have to do is place something heavy on your ricotta cheese after it is finished and let it sit for several hours. The curds will mold together and become very dense. It is perfect for grating onto fresh green salads or tantalizing pizzas.

Even though cheeses are commonly associated with rich diets, ricotta cheese is surprisingly healthy. Many recipes for items such as waffles, muffins, and breads have conversions that swap eggs for ricotta cheese. The finished product is just as moist but has the added benefit of less cholesterol and more protein. Also, because this ricotta is homemade, you don’t have to worry about the preservatives that may be in no-brand store bought varieties.

Making ricotta cheese at home saves money and tastes much fresher than purchasing a package or hitting up a deli.

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