I always thought ricotta was some sort of magical cheese from Italy. Maybe Italian grandmothers sit around making ricotta and sending to us to put in our lasagnas. I figured it was supposed to be thick and glue-like.

Little did I know that fresh ricotta is a light, creamy and delicious compliment to almost everything. We spread it on french bread toasts and top with sun-dried tomatoes and cracked peppercorn, mix it with herbs and lemon for a simple appetizer spread, stuff it into tiny tomatoes, add it to pasta, use it on pizza instead of mozzarella, coat pasta with it — and even sometimes work it into a lasagna.

It is so mind bogglingly simple – only 4 ingredients and about 20 minutes of time – there is no reason to buy the dense-pack sludge at the supermarket again.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar OR 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Hardware

  • Fine mesh sieve lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth

Directions

  1. Combine milk, cream and salt in medium saucepan.
  1. Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring occasionally.
  2. When mixture boils, remove from heat and GENTLY stir in either vinegar or lemon juice.
  1. Set kitchen timer and let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Pour into prepared cheesecloth-lined sieve.
  1. Refrigerate and drain about half an hour – or overnight depending on how thick you want your ricotta.
  2. If not using immediately cover tightly and refrigerate.

Ricotta should keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days. But the fresher the better.

N.B. – I’m saving the whey (that yellow stuff that collects under the ricotta) and experimenting with adding it to bread instead of water or milk, fermenting cranberries for Thanksgiving. I’ll probably come up with other stuff for this high-protein byproduct. Keep an eye out for more ways to use whey.