Of the few guilty pleasures that I have in life, cheese would have to be one of my favorites. And the one cheese that I most enjoy to indulge in is ricotta. Whether its used as a filling in a pasta dish or a rolantini, or as a key ingredient in an Easter cheese pie or cannoli, there is no denying that sweet, creamy ricotta is decadent, and sinfully delicious. Imagine my surprise when I found out how easy it is to make your own, homemade ricotta…and you don’t even need to milk you own cow to do so!
Unlike traditional cheese making, ricotta is the product of leftover milk from the production of other cheeses. Actually meaning “recooked”, ricotta comes together when you produce curds from heating and stirring up the leftover milk whey along with an acidic liquid (usually vinegar or lemon juice), then strained through cheesecloth and chilled.
Even if you are not producing your own cheeses at home, you can still make your own ricotta by following this simple recipe below that I found on Epicurious.com. All you need is whole milk, heavy cream, lemon juice, salt, cheese cloth and a few hours, and you will have the most delicious, creamy ricotta ever imagined. It can be used in any recipe that calls for ricotta. I’ve already made a few batches for family and friends, and they all agreed that the fresh ricotta is amazing. Even my friend’s 2 year old daughter, who is a ricotta connoisseur, gave my ricotta a thumbs-up. The only trick to using homemade is that because there are no preservatives, there is not much of a shelf life…only about 3-4 days to be exact. So you want to make sure that you have a purpose in mind when making homemade ricotta.
makes about 1 lb fresh ricotta
2 quarts whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tspn salt
4 tbspn lemon juice
In a large pot, slowly bring the milk, cream and salt to a rolling boil over moderate heat. Be sure to stir occasionally to prevent scorching. Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles.
Pour the mixture into a sieve, or colander, lined with cheese cloth and let drain for just a few minutes. Once liquid is drained, cover and chill ricotta. Use within a few days.
Now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you to give homemade ricotta a try, allow me share a quick and delicious recipe that will make for an unforgettable Valentine’s Day dessert. We’re going to make two ricotta dips, one with almond flavoring and one with nutella. Simply cut up some fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and bananas work well), plate it with the ricotta, some chocolate pieces and cinnamon graham crackers. Spread a bit of the ricotta onto the cracker, top with sliced fruit or chocolate. Try drizzling the almond flavored ricotta with a little honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon. It’s better than just about any cannoli out there!
ALMOND HONEY RICOTTA
Start by stirring in 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 tspn confectioner’s sugar into home made ricotta. Adjust measurements according to taste.
Stir in 1 tspn nutella into ricotta. Add to cracker, top with fresh fruit. Heaven.