On a whim, I decided to try a hand at making homemade ricotta this weekend. I had heard that it is uber-easy to make. I have had it at one of my favorite restaurants in Boston, La Morra, where they serve it soft, in a pool of nice olive oil and topped with freshly grated black pepper (perfect for spreading on homemade bread!) Seeing as my trips to Boston are few and far between I figured I should try and replicate this yummy appetizer at home.
A few items are required to make ricotta-making easy:
1. a cheesecloth
2. a colander
3. a meat/candy thermometer
4. a large pot
I basically took a gallon of whole milk, heated it to 200 degrees (whisking to keep the milk from burning on the bottom of the pot), then added a little salt, and about a 1/4 cup of white vinegar (you can use lemon juice as well). The curds formed immediately and all I had to do was pour the mixture through a cheesecloth covered colander to separate the curds and whey. You can actually keep the whey and use it to make biscuits.
The ricotta was soft and delicious just as is, but I happen to like it with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. I've heard you can freeze the cheese (although it will not be as good as fresh), but my plan is to make some ricotta gnocchi with the bulk of it and to eat the remainder on toast.
Authentic ricotta cheese is made from whey left over from the cheese making process, but this takes several gallons. Using whole milk is a faster, easier way to make a good substitute. A gallon of milk produces a large hunk of ricotta - maybe about a pound. Be sure to have a recipe or two lined up because it won't last in your fridge for long!