Say Cheese! Fresh Ricotta

One of my New Year's resolutions was to learn more about cheese, and now that it's almost March, I decided I better get on it! Don't worry readers, I'm taking you along for the ride: allow me to introduce my new feature devoted to the wonderful world of cheese. Each week, I'll pick a different type of cheese and use it in a delectable recipe. First up: homemade fresh ricotta. To learn more about this creamy cheese and check out the surprisingly easy recipe, read more.

The word ricotta means "recooked" in Italian, and the fresh cheese is not actually a cheese — it's a whey cheese. Whey is the leftover liquid that separates from the curds when making mozzarella, provolone, romano, etc. The remaining protein-rich byproduct is harvested, made more acidic, and reheated to create ricotta. Ricotta can be made from the whey of sheep, cow, goat, or water buffalo milk, but most American ricotta is a combination of whey and store-bought cow milk. Fresh ricotta has a slightly grainy texture and moist, almost sweet flavor. It's used in both savory (lasagna) and sweet (cheesecake) preparations.

This homemade variation is from the January issue of Bon Appétit. I was shocked when I read the article and saw how simple the recipe is: it only involves three common ingredients. After allowing plenty of time to chill, use in any recipe that calls for ricotta (stay tuned to find out how I used mine!).

Fresh Ricotta

Fresh Ricotta

Fresh Ricotta


8 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
tools: slotted spoon or fine-mesh skimmer, cheesecloth*, medium colander


  1. Line a medium colander with four layers of cheesecloth. Set the cheesecloth-lined colander in the sink.
  2. Bring the whole milk and salt to a simmer in a large, heavy-duty saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Stir in the fresh lemon juice. Simmer the milk mixture gently until curds form, usually one to two minutes.
  4. Using a slotted spoon or mesh skimmer, transfer the curds to the prepared colander. Let them drain for only a minute.
  5. Transfer the ricotta to a medium bowl. It can be served right away, or covered and chilled up to two days.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

*I forgot to purchase cheesecloth, so instead of using a colander, I used a fine mesh strainer lined with a paper towel — it worked fine!