September 5, 2012

Simple Homemade Ricotta

Simple Homemade Ricotta
Picture it, Long Island, 2012; three women sit at a dining room table under a crystal chandelier enjoying some sweet Sicilian stuffed crepes.  One of those women is me, the other two are my mom and aunt.  I’m frantically jotting down mental notes as they take turns blurting out ricotta-making tips; it’s like some recipe version of the Pyramid game show.

The most important tip to keep in my head is to make sure the milk doesn’t boil over which would result in a destroyed pot and stove.  The key is to never turn your back on the milk.  As soon as is starts to boil, turn off that heat.  I left the island feeling ready to make my first batch of homemade ricotta.

I was surprised how simple it was to make ricotta from scratch.  When you compare the ingredients below to the ingredients in the store bought kind, making ricotta at home clearly becomes the right choice, unless you can find the freshly made stuff in your neighborhood.

Oh, ricotta, the center of silky raviolis, the glue for lasagna stacked high, the spread for toasted rounds of bread, the luxurious filling for sweet crepes or cannolis.  Slap a dollop of it on hot pasta and watch it marry your tomato sauce, making each bite a sinful one.  Enjoy it in so many ways…

Makes 1 cup

3 cups whole milk (NOT “Ultra-Pasteurized“)
1 cup heavy cream (preferably NOT “Ultra-Pasteurized“)
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon coarse salt
4 layers cheesecloth

First thing’s first…don’t turn your back on boiling milk!  It boils over fast and can mess up your pot and stove. 

Line a sieve or colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth; dampen the cheesecloth.  Set the sieve or colander over a bowl. 

Combine milk, cream and salt in a saucepot and set on the stove over medium heat.  It will start to boil after a couple of minutes (don’t look away).  Stir gently with a spatula, scraping sides and bottom of pot repeatedly.

When the full surface of the liquid is simmering with small, vigorous bubbles, turn OFF the heat.  Immediately pour the lemon juice into the pot.  The milk will start to curdle within seconds.  Let sit for 1 minute to allow all the milk to curdle.

Pour the curdled mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve over the sink, allowing most of the liquid to drain into the sink and be discarded, then set the sieve over the bowl to catch any extra drippings.

Let sit for 15-20 minutes depending on how thick you want the ricotta to be. 

It can be eaten now! Or refrigerate it (up to 5 days), covered, until ready to eat.

Here is a picture of me preparing raviolis with my fresh ricotta....

And here is a picture of my mom's sweet Sicilian stuffed crepes (fresh ricotta mixed with sugar, lemon zest and chocolate shavings, wrapped in crepes and topped with powdered good!)

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