The first time I ever made ricotta cheese was in my dining room at Gourmet Magazine. It was based on a family recipe from the magazine’s art director Richard Feretti. And it was amazing. Not only did it taste so much better than the supermarket version (anything homemade tastes better anyway, doesn’t it? or at least we think it does) but it was just so easy to make. Let me take you through the process.
First, if you are able and can afford it, buy really good milk and cream. Maybe you live near a farmers market where they sell some local dairy products. There are only four ingredients in this cheese so the higher the quality of the ingredients, the better the taste. Combine 1 quart whole milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a deep saucepan. Bring this mixture up to a boil, stirring every so often so it doesn’t scorch on the bottom. When it comes up to a full rolling boil add 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice all at once while you stir with a spoon. Turn down the heat immediately to low and let the mixture simmer for several minutes. The liquid will start to look curdled almost as soon as you add the lemon juice. If for some crazy reason, it does not curdle, add more lemon juice. Every time I make this cheese it comes out different. Sometimes I get large curds (my favorite), sometimes I get small curds and occasionally I get no curds. Adding more lemon juice will correct that situation.
While the mixture is simmering, put a strainer over a deep bowl and line the strainer with a damp paper towel. Pour the cheese mixture through the strainer and let it sit for 5 minutes or longer if you want a firmer texture. I like my ricotta creamy and soft which is why I only strain it for 5 minutes.
Now, voila, you have ricotta cheese! Unfortunately you will only have about 1 cup and a few tablespoons of it (the cheese part is the curds and the rest is the liquid whey). I like to serve the ricotta right away because it is delicious warm. I add mashed roasted garlic and herbs and spread it on toast or I spoon it on top of pasta with marinara sauce and add a sprinkling of Parmesan.
If you make this for guests they will think you are a culinary genius. Don’t tell them how easy it is!!