4-Ingredient Homemade Ricotta Cheese

4-Ingredient Homemade Ricotta Cheese

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Making fresh creamy homemade ricotta cheese is kind of magical. Once you learn how to make it yourself, you will never buy it from the store again! 

Homemade ricotta cheese is easy to make and made using only four ingredients. Not to mention this creamy smooth ricotta cheese is so versatile. It is delicious as an appetizer spread onto bread, in pasta, on pizza, and ricotta is even an ingredient in some desserts. 

The first time I watched Ina Garten make ricotta cheese on The Food Network, I knew I had to try it. It fascinated me that I could make my own cheese. I got her recipe, made fresh homemade ricotta cheese, and haven’t bought any from the store since.

ricotta cheese in cheesecloth on cutting board with broccoli

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Texture: You can control the texture with the amount of time you allow the cheese to drain.
  • Flavor: Because you make this cheese fresh the flavor is so much better than what you buy from the store. Seriously, 100 times more flavor.
  • Control of Ingredients: You control what goes into your cheese. It will not have artificial ingredients and preservatives.
  • Make-Ahead: Ricotta cheese can last up to a week so, you can make it ahead to enjoy and use throughout a week.
  • Easy to Make: There are minimal pantry ingredients and the recipe requires only about 20-minutes of hands-on time.

What is Ricotta Cheese?

The Italian word ricotta comes from the Latin word “recooked”. This cheese originates in Italy, where the cheesemakers separated curds and whey to make other cheeses. This cheese is known as a “whey cheese”. To make it you separate milk into two properties, curds, and whey. 

The curds are separated and pressed to form cheese. While the liquid, whey, is left behind. Most cheeses are made from curds, but ricotta is made from the leftover curds found in the whey.

Ricotta cheese is a mild white soft curd cheese that complements bold flavors such as marinara sauce.  

What’s the Difference Between Ricotta and Cottage Cheese?

It’s important to know that while ricotta cheese and cottage cheese may look similar they are very different. 

Both are known as fresh unripened cheeses made from curds. However, ricotta comes from whey and cottage cheese is made of curds. 

Texture-wise, ricotta has a fine creamy curd, whereas cottage cheese is lumpier with a much larger curd. Besides its unusual texture, cottage cheese has a weird smell, but it has a very mild flavor with a slightly salty taste. In contrast, ricotta has a mild, slightly nutty flavor. Both work well in both sweet and savory dishes.

I’m not a fan of cottage cheese and neither is David. I think it’s the texture we do not like. But we adore this ricotta cheese. Go figure!

ingredients to make recipe

Ingredients Needed:

Whole Milk: Whole milk works the best. When making ricotta don’t skimp and try to cut calories. Skim or low-fat milk really doesn’t have enough fat to make enough curds. Use pasteurized milk, but do not use ultra-pasteurized milk, because it will not curdle as well.

Heavy Cream: Heavy cream works best because it gives the curds their creamy texture. Don’t use half and half, it won’t make very good cheese.

Acid: Citric acid is typically used to curdle the milk, separating the curds from the whey. Citric acid is not a typical pantry item, so you can use lemon juice or white wine vinegar. I have used both and neither influence the taste of the ricotta cheese. You cannot tell it’s in there at all.

Kosher Salt: Besides enhancing the taste of the cheese, salt can stop bacteria from growing, control moisture, and improve the overall texture of ricotta cheese.

cheesecloth lined sieve in bowl

Tools and Equipment To Make Ricotta Cheese

Non-reactive Saucepan: stainless steel or enamel are fine.

Rubber Spatula: To help scrape down the sides of the pot and keep the milk from scorching on the bottom of the saucepan.

Cheesecloth: Cheesecloth is necessary because it keeps the cheese curds from going through the sieve. Use two layers of cheesecloth to pour the ricotta cheese through.

Fine mesh sieve, strainer, colander: This will cradle the ricotta inside the cheesecloth while allowing the whey to escape.

Instant-Read Thermometer: You can use an instant-read thermometer such as a Thermapen by Thermoworks to check on the progress of the milk mixture. Between  170 degrees F to 190 degrees F the milk will separate into curds and whey.

pot on stove with cream and milk

How To Make 4-Ingredient Ricotta Cheese

First, dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth about (10-inches long), with water and line a sieve or strainer.

Pour the milk and cream into a medium nonreactive stainless steel or enamel saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the salt and bring the milk mixture to a full boil, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula.

curds and whey separating in pot

Turn off the heat. Stir in the white vinegar. Let the milk mixture stand in the pot for about 10 minutes. You will see the milk start to curdle and separate right before your very eyes. Be patient. The magic has just begun.

pouring white wine vinegar into curds and whey
soft cheese curds of homemade ricotta cheese

After 10 minutes, carefully pour the milk mixture into the cheesecloth and allow it to drain over a large bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes.  (Place the sieve over a bowl in the sink so it will not spatter all over the kitchen.)

pouring ricotta into cheesecloth lined sieve

The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. I usually let it drain in the refrigerator overnight or I make it early in the morning if I am planning on using it for supper. 

Use the ricotta cheese right away or transfer your ricotta to a covered container and refrigerate for up to a week.

TIP: If the ricotta needs to be used as a spread, remove it from the refrigerator at least 20 minutes prior to use.

homemade ricotta cheese dripping through cheesecloth with mountain view

Within 30 minutes you can have wonderful creamy delicious 4-ingredient homemade ricotta cheese to use anyway your heart desires.

I hope you try this recipe, if you do comment and rate this recipe below!

Recipes that Use Ricotta Cheese

homemade ricotta cheese in cheesecloth
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5 from 1 vote

4-Ingredient Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Learn how to make creamy, smooth homemade ricotta cheese with this quick and easy recipe. Once you do you won't buy it from the store again.
Course Appetizer, Ingredient
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword 4-Ingredient, homemade, Ricotta Cheese
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Draining Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 281kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar lemon juice or white vinegar can be subsituted

Instructions

  • First, dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth about (10-inches long), with water and line a sieve or strainer.
  • Pour the milk and cream into a medium nonreactive stainless steel or enamel saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the salt and bring the milk mixture to a full boil, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula.
  • Turn off the heat. Stir in the white vinegar. Let the milk mixture stand in the pot for about 10 minutes. You will see the milk start to curdle and separate right before your very eyes. Be patient. The magic has just begun.
  • After 10 minutes, carefully pour the milk mixture into the cheesecloth and allow it to drain over a large bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. I usually let it drain in the refrigerator overnight or I make it early in the morning if I am planning on using it for supper.
  • Use the ricotta cheese right away or transfer your ricotta to a covered container and refrigerate for up to a week.

Notes

Draining The Ricotta: Place the sieve over a bowl in the sink so it will not spatter all over the kitchen.
The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. I usually let it drain in the refrigerator overnight or I make it early in the morning if I am planning on using it for supper.
TIP: If the ricotta needs to be used as a spread, remove it from the refrigerator at least 20 minutes prior to use.
Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa.

Nutrition

Calories: 281kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 94mg | Sodium: 366mg | Potassium: 206mg | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1072IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 177mg | Iron: 1mg
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