You don't have to be a skilled cheesemaker to strain some curds.

By Margaret Eby
May 03, 2019
Eugene Mymrin/Getty Images

Maybe you only know ricotta as the stuff that you buy in a tub about twice a year when you attempt to make lasagna. Maybe you're only aware of it because it can get gritty and unpleasant when baked, like in lasagna or dessert applications. For years, a friend of mine insisted that she hated ricotta, ranking it as a worse cottage cheese. But that was before, one day, I convinced her to try a dollop of fresh ricotta from the farmers' market, and I watched her face light up.

Fresh ricotta is as far away from the stuff in the tub at the grocery store as artificial cherry flavor is from actual fresh cherries. Fresh ricotta is an all-star ingredient that can help bind together whatever other disparate ingredients are in your fridge with little effort. Stir ricotta into pasta with fresh vegetables, like sugar snap peas, and add some lemon juice, olive oil, salt and a few red pepper flakes for a seasonal dinner. Put it in the food processor with a little salt and pepper, and you've got whipped ricotta. Maybe the best thing to do with ricotta is to just layer it onto toast with a little honey or jam and some flaky salt or crushed nuts.

What's also great about it is that it doesn't require any specialty ingredients or equipment except cheesecloth. To make ricotta, all you need is a gallon of regular, whole milk, some cream, and white vinegar or lemon juice. You put the milk and cream in a big stockpot with a pinch or two of salt, and heat the whole thing until it starts simmering, stirring every once in a while so the bottom of the pot doesn't scorch. Then you take it off the heat, add your vinegar or lemon juice, and let it sit until the milk separates into curds and whey. Strain the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth or a very, very clean dish towel. Then let it sit until the consistency looks right to you. Voila: you've made delicious fresh ricotta.

Get the recipe: Homemade Ricotta

 

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