Skip the grocery store and make your own -Ready in just 30 minutes, all you need is 3 ingredients to make delicious, fresh Italian homemade ricotta!
I can’t even begin to express my love for homemade ricotta. This unique Italian dairy product is incredibly versatile and can be used for both savoury & sweet recipes.
Ricotta is also naturally gluten-free, and vegetarian-friendly (unlike Parmesan cheese).
Growing up in Sicily, ricotta was a HUGE part of my family diet.
My mum would use it for anything from stuffed pasta or veggies, to delicious cannoli and the famous Sicilian cassata.
Nowadays, I live far from my beloved island, and rather than buying the store-bought version, which is often tasteless, I make homemade ricotta as much as I can. And I'm here to encourage you to do the same!
What Is Italian Ricotta?
Ricotta is so-called because, in Italian language, it literally means "re-cooked".
To be super precise, ricotta is not really considered a cheese, but a latticino—which in Italian means a dairy-product—just as mozzarella and burrata are.
If you want to learn how to make easy homemade ricotta at home, you have come to the right place.
You will get a product very similar to the ricotta that you usually buy: to be precise, we can speak of curd, which we obtain from whole milk, while real ricotta is produced from raw milk.
To make the real authentic ricotta, the whey is cooked twice to obtain this fresh dairy product and rennet is added into the mix.
But this simplified version of homemade ricotta is very similar in taste, takes a fraction of the time to make, and requires incredibly simple everyday ingredients.
Best of all, you can make it at home, and won't need to stress yourself up to go to the closest Italian deli!
Ingredients for Homemade Ricotta
The best part about homemade ricotta is that you can easily make it at home in less than 30 minutes, with everyday kitchen utensils and three simple ingredients:
- fresh whole milk
- juice of lemon
- sea salt
For the best homemade ricotta, I recommend you opt for fresh whole milk (preferably organic). You can use cow's milk, goat's milk and even sheep's milk or buffalo's milk.
In Sicily, you will often find sheep's ricotta, it's tastier and used as filling for the famous Sicilian cannoli.
Note that pasteurized milk is OK to use for making ricotta, but avoid UHT (Ultra High Temperature) pasteurized milk as it won't work out well for this process.
How To Make Ricotta At Home
The process for making ricotta at home is pretty straightforward and requires utensils you most likely already have in your kitchen.
All you need to do is heat the milk until the curds and whey separate.
The curds that you get, are the base for making ricotta and other dairy products such as mozzarella and burrata.
Once you gather the curds together, let me dry on a strainer, or you can use a ricotta basket if you like, and a few minutes later, your ricotta is ready to eat.
Here's my super simple step-by-step recipe on how to make homemade ricotta:
Place the milk in a large pot over medium-low heat.
Let the milk warm gradually to 194°F or 90°C, monitoring the temperature with an instant-read thermometer.
The milk should get lightly foamy, if it starts to boil, remove it immediately from the heat.
Once the milk temperature reaches the 90°C, remove the pot from the heat and pour in the lemon juice and season with a tiny bit of sea salt.
Place a lid over the pot, and allow the milk mixture to sit for 10 minutes undisturbed.
After this time the milk should start separating in clumps.
Set a strainer over a bowl and line the strainer with a cheesecloth.
Scoop in the big curds out of the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the strainer, then pour in the remaining curds.
Alternatively, if you'd like to make the ricotta into the classic shape, you can scoop the curds into a traditional ricotta basket.
Let the ricotta sit for 15 minutes up to 1 hour, depending on how creamy you want it to be.
You can eat the ricotta straight away or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
What Is Ricotta Salata?
There's also an aged version of ricotta, called ricotta salata (salted ricotta), where the ricotta is pressed, salted and aged for at least 90 days.
The final product is a hard ricotta that you can shave or grate on salads, pasta, or that you can generally use in place of Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese).
Customize Your Ricotta
I can't stress enough how versatile ricotta is. You can flavour your homemade ricotta with both savoury and sweet ingredients, here are a few simple add ons:
- chopped aromatic herbs (basil, thyme, parsley, sage work all well)
- chopped rocket leaves
- paprika or red chili flakes
- lemon zest
- orange zest
- good-quality honey
Serve it with fresh salads, toasted bread, crumbled cookies, or simple chopped fruit.
Can You Make Homemade Vegan Ricotta?
Yes, you can!
You can totally prepare a vegan version of homemade ricotta with no extra efforts. Just replace the cows' milk with soy milk and follow the recipe below.
More Ways To Use Ricotta
There are many Italian classic recipes that call for ricotta cheese, and they're all incredible.
And you can also use your homemade ricotta as an alternative to cream cheese, yogurt, and bechamel in many recipes.
Here below you can find some of my favourite traditional Italian recipes that call for ricotta, and some personal favourite ways to use it in other recipes:
- Spinach & Ricotta Pasta Shells
- Bruschetta with Ricotta & Tomato Confit
- Ricotta, Spinach & Pumpkin Cannelloni
- Chocolate Cannoli with Ricotta & Pistachio
- Berry Cheesecake Parfait
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?
Please let me know how you liked it! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #thepetitecook! Looking at your pictures always makes me smile *and super hungry*!
How To Make Homemade Ricotta
- 2 litres whole milk
- 80 ml fresh lemon juice (⅓ cup)
- ⅔ tsp fine sea salt
- Place the milk in a large pot over medium-low heat.
- Let the milk warm gradually to 194°F or 90°C, monitoring the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. The milk should get lightly foamy, if it starts to boil, remove it immediately from the heat.
- Once the milk temperature reaches the 90°C, remove the pot from the heat and pour in the lemon juice and season with sea salt.
- Place a lid over the pot, and allow the milk mixture to sit for 10 minutes undisturbed. After this time the milk should start separating in clumps.
- Set a strainer over a bowl and line the strainer with a cheesecloth. Scoop in the big curds out of the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the strainer, then pour in the remaining curds.
- Let the ricotta sit for 15 minutes up to 1 hour, depending on how creamy you want it to be.
- You can eat the ricotta straight away or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.