5 Ingredients or Fewer

Homemade Ricotta - With Cow's Milk or Goat Milk

May 23, 2013
0 Ratings
  • Makes 1 cup
Author Notes

Once you’ve tasted freshly made ricotta, you can’t help but be hooked!

The first time I did was in Tuscany. The cheese was so fresh, it was still warm! I’ll never forget the experience. How could something so simple be so delicious?

Ever since that first bite, I’ve been seeking out freshly made ricotta in gourmet stores or farmers’ markets. It finally occurred to me that I’d be better off simply making my own. I could make the precious cheese whenever I needed it, and would never again have to go out of my way to find it.

The revelation for me was that making ricotta at home is almost as easy as boiling an egg! Today, making my own ricotta is as routine as brewing my morning tea.

Ricotta in Italian means “re-cooked.” It’s made by re-heating the whey left over from making another cheese. In Tuscany, the leftover whey they use is from sheep’s milk pecorino. (Yes, that was my unforgettable first bite!)

So, while homemade ricotta is not a true ricotta, it certainly tastes just as good! Here milk instead of whey is heated up to near boiling point, then acid is added to precipitate the formation of curds. Once formed, the curds are drained through a cheesecloth… and voilà! Within a few minutes you’ve made your very own batch of fresh ricotta.

Here’s the recipe I developed for this most simple of cheeses. I’ve tried it with different acids and with different milks. All yield a different-tasting but always stunning ricotta.

The milk

Different kinds of milk will give you different ricottas. Cow’s milk is, of course, the milk that’s most readily available. You can use either ultra-pasteurized or pasteurized milk. I find the difference to be minimal, but the pasteurized milk does yield a slightly more moist ricotta. Goat’s milk, which you can find in health or gourmet stores, makes a creamy and tangy ricotta that’s perfect for spreading on a slice of crusty bread or for desserts. I’m still trying to locate sheep’s milk, which to me makes the most sublime ricotta of all.

See this recipe's second photo for the following examples:
• Ultra-pasteurized cow’s milk (left): The curds are large and form very quickly. This ricotta drains very fast. I find that 5 minutes is sufficient for a crumbly yet moist texture.
• Pasteurized cow’s milk (center): The curds are also large and form quickly, but the ricotta has a creamier texture. For a crumbly and moist texture, drain it for 5 to 10 minutes.
• Pasteurized goat’s milk (right): The curds are small. This ricotta will need at least 20 minutes of draining or more. It has a soft, creamy texture.

Note: You might find recipes for homemade ricotta that call for adding heavy cream to the milk, but I am a purist and prefer the curds on the lighter and drier side.

The acid

Flavor-wise, distilled vinegar makes for the purest ricotta. The vinegar imparts no flavor to the cheese and is very reliable, yielding the same results every batch.

Lemon and lime juice are also good acids to use for making cheese. They will both give the cheese either a slightly lemon-y or lime-y flavor which works wonderfully in certain recipes. However, since the pH level varies in each fruit you might need to add a little extra lemon or lime juice (about 1 tablespoon) to the warmed milk if your curds are not forming right away.

My advice is to start making ricotta with distilled vinegar until you’re comfortable with the process. Then you can experiment with fresh lemon or lime juice.

Draining the ricotta

This step is crucial. The more you drain your ricotta, the drier it’ll be. The best method is to flake a little bit of ricotta with a fork while it’s draining to see how the texture is turning out.

A cheesecloth is a very handy accessory to have. These days you can find it in most grocery or cooking supply stores. But in a pinch you can use a strong paper towel (the kind that doesn’t fall apart when soaking wet!). I’ve had to resort to this a few times, when I’ve forgotten to replenish my supply of cheesecloth, so I can vouch for its working out well enough. —Viviane Bauquet Farre

What You'll Need
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons distilled vinegar, fresh lemon or lime juice
  • fine cheesecloth
  1. Place the milk in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the salt and heat over medium heat. Stir occasionally so the milk doesn’t scorch. Heat milk to 180ºF to 190ºF (82ºC to 88ºC). If you don’t have a thermometer, heat the milk until it foams at the sides of the pan and starts simmering, but doesn’t boil.
  2. Remove pan from heat and add vinegar, lemon or lime juice. Stir only a couple of times. Almost immediately, curds will start to form. Make sure not to stir any more so as not to disturb the curds. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Line a medium sieve with the cheesecloth and carefully pour the milk mixture into the cheesecloth, disturbing the curds as little as possible. Let drain for 5 to 20 minutes to the desired consistency. Draining for 5 minutes will give you a moist and creamy cheese. Draining for 20 minutes will give you a drier ricotta. You can drain the ricotta for longer of course, just remember that the longer it drains, the drier it’ll be. See above for the step-by-step instructions and photographs.Transfer the ricotta to a container and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 7 days.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jill Pohren
    Jill Pohren
  • Assya
  • Viviane Bauquet Farre
    Viviane Bauquet Farre
  • Amanda Ghering
    Amanda Ghering

4 Reviews

Jill P. June 26, 2016
Wow, will not go back to store brand ricotta - homemade is so much better. Thank you! One question: what can we do with the whey? I used whole milk, cream, and lemon juice and had about 2-3 cups of whey remaining. Thanks for your help!
Assya March 29, 2015
Just made this with 4 cups of pasteurized whole milk from the store.
I used distilled vinegar like you advised, and I had fresh ricotta from the store as well (I wanted to compare since I had never had ricotta on its own).
Wow, the homemade version is nothing like the store bought. The latter has an aftertaste I don't really like and the homemade is sooo silky and melts in your mouth.
One thing though, it yielded 160 grams and not 1 cup like mentioned. I guess it depends on the milk but it's still worth it :)
Viviane B. April 2, 2015
Hello Assya! Thank you so much for your note. I am delighted you enjoyed making and tasting your ricotta! It is so much more flavorful than store bought... Hands down! As for the quantity you end up with it depends on two things: The kind of milk, yes (some yield less than others). But also the kind of cheesecloth you use. Make sure to use a very finely woven cheesecloth, so less curds are lost when the ricotta is strained. Especially if you use goat milk because it makes very fine curds. I recommend butter muslin, which you can wash and re-use many times. Happy ricotta making!
Amanda G. December 2, 2020
Viviane, I am wondering if this recipe would work with sheep’s milk? Or if I need to alter the recipe? I currently have not found sheep’s milk, but am working with our local 4H to find some.