Homemade Ricotta

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Makes Approximately

    1 pound

    Ricotta

Appears in

Robert Alleva, Sr., proprietor of the Alleva Dairy on Grand Street in New York’s Little Italy, recently shared some of his knowledge about making fresh ricotta — the indispensable milk product for many Italian pastries. The Allevas, originally from Benevento, in southern Italy, have been in the latticini (Italian cheeses and milk products) business since 1892.

I was surprised to find that the process of making ricotta is a simple one. Alleva stated that the pH of the milk is altered from its normal 7.0 to 5.9 by the addition of lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid, or sour milk, then heated to 175 degrees. Next, the coagulated ricotta is skimmed from the surface and placed in perforated containers to drain. The longer the ricotta is “cooked” — held at the coagulating temperature — the finer and drier the curd becomes.

Rushing home with several gallons of milk, I tried the process numerous times with excellent results. You need the following equipment to make a pound of ricotta: a 5-quart stainless steel or enamel casserole, a slotted spoon or skimmer, an instant-read thermometer, a strainer or colander, and cheesecloth or a napkin. You can use the homemade ricotta on its own or in combination with commercial ricotta.

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Ingredients

  • 3 quarts whole milk (replace 1 cup of the milk with cream to make a richer ricotta)
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Method

Combine the milk and vinegar in a 5-quart enamel or stainless casserole and place over low heat. Place the thermometer in the liquid, without allowing it to touch the bottom of the pan, and continue to heat until the liquid reaches 175 degrees. Be careful to regulate the heat, lowering it substantially at about 160 degrees so that the liquid just reaches 175 degrees but does not exceed it.

While the liquid is heating, rinse the cheesecloth or napkin and use it to line a strainer or small colander placed in a bowl. When the ricotta forms on the surface of the liquid, remove it with a slotted spoon or skimmer and place it in the lined strainer. To make the ricotta more dry and firm, continue to heat the curds 5 minutes longer before placing them in the strainer.

To make the ricotta smooth before using it in a recipe, pulse it in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until creamy.

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