Making Cheese at Home: 3-Ingredient Ricotta

Ricotta is a classic, creamy, slightly sweet cheese that traces its history to the Bronze Age. In traditional dishes, ricotta fills layers of lasagna, mixes with herbs in stuffed shells and tops pizza. Beyond Italy’s borders, ricotta can be used in many creative ways. It can add fresh, new dimensions to your cheesecakes or muffins, be stuffed inside lean proteins or simply served with your favorite fruits.

What you probably didn’t know is that ricotta is incredibly easy to make. With just three ingredients, you can have your own batch of fresh ricotta in a little over an hour. Even better? You probably have the ingredients on hand. This is the perfect recipe for cheese-making newbies.

Tools You’ll Need

  • Large saucepan
  • Candy thermometer
  • Whisk
  • Measuring spoons
  • Large fine-mesh sieve
  • Cheesecloth
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Slotted spoon

Ingredients

Makes 2 cups

  • ½ gallon whole milk
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice or 1/3 cup distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Heat the milk. In a large saucepan, heat the milk slowly over medium-heat until milk reaches 200⁰F. Milk will be steaming and foaming but do not boil. Be sure to whisk often to prevent burning.
  2. Add the acid and salt. Remove from heat. Add your acid of choice, lemon juice or vinegar. Add salt and stir gently to combine. Pillowy curds will start floating to the top – that’s a sign of success!
  3. Let the milk sit for 10 minutes. Patience is a virtue. The curds and whey will continue to separate. If the milk does not separate fully, add another tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and wait a few more minutes.
  4. Strain with cheesecloth. Line a large fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth and set on top of a bowl. With your slotted spoon, gently remove the curds from your saucepan and nestle them in the cheesecloth. Gently pour remaining curds as needed. Let the ricotta drain for 10-60 minutes. The longer ricotta drains, the thicker it becomes.
  5. Eat right away or store for later. Ricotta can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Tricks and Tips

  • Use whole milk. Simply because it makes the creamiest ricotta. Two% milk would also work well. Low-fat or nonfat milk doesn’t separate the curd from the whey as easily.
  • Avoid UHT labeled milk. Most store brands of milk work great for ricotta but avoid UHT (ultra-high temperature pasteurized) milk. UHT milk is great for longer shelf life, but this type of pasteurization changes the protein structure, which is not ideal for cheese making.
  • Reduce food waste by using your whey! The liquid left from the separation is actually whey. Yep, that’s the same product that gym enthusiasts love after a good workout. Instead of discarding it, stir this protein-packed byproduct into smoothies, sauces, shakes or use in place of water in recipes.

That’s it! Made simply with just three ingredients, you have a fresh ricotta your family will love. Need more #DairyAmazing recipe inspiration? We’ve got you covered!

By Sarah Ryan, MS, RDN, LD

Sarah is a registered dietitian nutritionist and foodie. She has a special interest in sports nutrition and is certified in food allergy training. When she isn't working, you can find her in the kitchen baking delicious cakes and beautiful pies. Learn more about Sarah