Ricotta is a fresh and soft Italian cheese… and truly delicious! It has a soft grain and light texture. Traditionally, ricotta was made with milk and whey left after making other cheeses. Thats how it got its name “ricotta” which literally translates to re-cooked. However, ricotta is now very sought after because of its slightly sweet taste and its ability to hold its consistency. Thus, its widely used in desserts and Italian cuisine. Its best use is to add it to the filling for lasagne, ravioli, cannelloni and conchiglie.
You literally need just two ingredients to make fresh ricotta at home. Milk and lemons, thats all!
You can use any milk for this, but the result could vary a bit. We have used regular whole milk. You can use skimmed milk too but you might end up with a lesser quantity of ricotta (which is fine). So, using whole or full fat milk would be better, but even others work well.
Put the milk to heat in a pan. We want hot milk but DO NOT BOIL THE MILK. Now, this is very important. You want to heat it only till you start seeing the bubbles on the edge of the pan. As soon as that happens, turn off the flame. Keep your lemon juice ready and after you have turned off the flame, add it to the milk. Stir very delicately to make sure its mixed.
Let it stand for 10-20 minutes and the soft cheese will start to curdle and separate from the whey. Whey is that thin watery liquid that separates from milk while making cheese or curd. If the milk has still not curdled, be patient. If it still doesn’t, add 1 tbsp lemon juice and it should curdle.
Be sure, not to stir it too much or too vigorously, otherwise you will turn it into cottage cheese. There is a very fine line between ricotta and cottage cheese!. On stirring too much, it will become firmer, and we’re looking for a soft cheese.
When you stir very gently, the cheese will start to show… almost as if emerging from the milk-whey liquid.
It will finally look something like this. Such a beauty!
Keep a pot ready with a big sieve on top. Place a cheesecloth or a muslin cloth on top of the sieve. Make sure there’s enough distance between the sieve and the base of the pot, so that when we leave it to strain, the cheese is not touching the strained liquid whey.
This is what it will look like. At this stage, leave it to drain the excess liquid. The draining time is directly proportional to the firmness of cheese. If you let it stand longer and let more liquid drain out then you will get a firmer ricotta. Alternately, if you don’t leave it for very long so that it retains some moisture, then you will get a softer cheese.
This really depends on the purpose of use. Soft Ricotta: for, cakes, tarts, cannoli, puddings, mousse and other desserts Firm Ricotta: for ravioli, cannelloni, conchiglie, lasagne, tortellini and the likes. Ricotta doesn’t melt on baking and thats why its the first choice for the filling of stuffed pastas.
Its ready to use when cooled. You can store it in the refrigerator for upto a week.
Recipe: Fresh Ricotta
1 litre milk 2 lemons
Take milk in a sauce pan and heat it to just before it comes to a boil. You will start seeing a few bubbles on the edge of the pan.
Meanwhile juice 2 lemons and keep aside.
Line a soup strainer with muslin cloth or cheesecloth and place the strainer over a big pot.
As soon as you see bubble on the edge of the milk turn off the flame and add the lemon juice. Stir it delicately to ensure the lemon juice is mixed well with the milk.
Let it stand for 10-20 minutes. You will see that the soft cheese would curdle and separate leaving behind the whey.
If the milk doesn’t not curdle completely just add an additional 1 tbsp of lemon Juice. Over stirring will make the cheese harder so stir less to get a soft cheese.
Drain the cheese over the cheesecloth and let it stand from anywhere between 20-50 minutes. For a fresh and light ricotta, drain it for a short time and for a more dense ricotta drain it for a longer period.
This amount of milk will yield ricotta between 260-220gm depending on the amount of drainage time. Use fresh or store in the refrigerator for 6-8 days.