Not all ricotta cheese is created equally. The consistency and quality of store-bought ricotta varies widely and can affect the outcome of the dish you are making. My gripe is that many store-bought brands tend to have a gritty texture, almost as if semolina flour was added to it. It is for this reason that I prefer to make my own. A good quality ricotta should have a smooth texture. You may have to try several brands before you come across a good one.
Fresh ricotta is not difficult to make and is far superior to most store-bought brands, and I guarantee it is well worth the effort. All the equipment you need is a digital thermometer and a large heavy bottom stock pot. It should be made at least a day or two in advance if using it in a recipe. But why wait – fresh ricotta is a delectable treat. My favorite childhood breakfast was a steaming hot bowl of soft, rich, creamy ricotta curds and whey with some fresh crusty Italian bread to sop up the juices. Delicious! You just don’t know what you’re missing out on.
I’ve used this recipe for years. It’s an adaptation of a recipe of Manuela De Angelis that was featured in The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, March-April 1999. The addition of heavy cream makes for a richer ricotta cheese.
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Makes approximately 2 1/2 pounds of ricotta.
3 quarts whole milk
1 quart of heavy cream
1 teaspoon citric acid
1 teaspoon salt
Heat the milk, cream, and salt in a large 6-quart covered stainless steel stock pot with a heavy bottom over medium-high heat, preferably using a flame tamer to prevent scorching the milk. Have the citric acid ready. Stir the milk occasionally until it reaches 194 degrees F, approximately 1 hour. Immediately stir in the citric acid. Continue to stir the milk until curds begin to form and you notice a yellowish clear liquid appear on the surface. Stop stirring and turn off the heat. Cover the pot with a lid and let the curds rest undisturbed for about one hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the curds into a colander lined with several layers of cheese cloth or a clean, thin cotton dish towel, placed over the sink to drain. Let curds drain for 30 minutes. Place the colander with the ricotta over a large bowl and continue draining for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, to desired consistency. Transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.