Oh cheese. How I love thee. Cheese is in my top two favorite food groups along with Sunny Bears from Whole Foods Market. I may not have a firm grasp on the term “Food Group,” but I think you get the basic idea.
While I was living in Seattle a few years back I had the amazing opportunity to work in Pike Place Market at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. It was such a great gig; I worked in the cafe and at the cheese counter, and except for the fact I needed to buy larger pants at the end of the year, I call it a total success. Beecher’s cheese is made on-site by strong, burly cheese guys, but I had the chance to hairnet-up and have a go at making some myself once. Holy baloney (provoloney?) was it hard! We are talking about thousands of gallons of milk moving through this place a day, and there is some serious lifting, stirring, and flipping going on. I was sore for days afterwards, and found a curd in my shoe. It was a total blast, but I was much better at selling (and eating) it than making it.
After that fateful day in the cheese room, I decided I would like to continue making cheese recreationally, but on a much smaller scale. Cue today’s post of homemade ricotta. So simple, so tasty, so versatile, so much fun to brag about. Why yes, I did make this lovely ricotta myself; it was really no trouble at all! The best part is that it truly is no trouble at all, but you can pretend it was if you want.
The ricotta recipe I use is by the lovely Ina Garten of Food Network Fame. I just think she’s tops; she has the most fabulous friends, throws the best parties, and her husband Jeffrey is just the cutest. Hands-on time for this recipe is no more than 10 minutes, and the whole thing only takes about half an hour, most of which you can spend drinking a glass of wine congratulating yourself on how fancy you are.
When all is said and done you are left with some of the creamiest ricotta you can imagine. None of that sad grainy stuff from the supermarket; we’re talking Grade A silky ricotta which dreams are made of. You are also left with endless options for how to use it. For your consideration: a perfect pasta companion, a spread for bruschetta, best dumplings ever, dolloped on pizza, or sweetened with honey and served with fruit for dessert. My go-to use for it so far has been Ricotta plus Spoon equals a Happy Holly, but I think I better branch out before I need to buy larger pants. Again.
Recipe by Ina Garten
This ricotta is a perfect blank canvas for fresh herbs or lemon zest. Some mini dark chocolate chips would be fun if you’re going a dessert route. Also, I would recommend using the best milk you can find; the results will be far tastier.
4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Place a fine mesh sieve in a large bowl or in the sink. Dampen two layers of cheese cloth and line the sieve.
Place milk, cream and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once it comes to a rolling boil, remove from heat and immediately stir in the vinegar. Let it sit for one minute, so the curds can separate from the whey. Pour mixture into sieve, and let drain for 20-25 minutes. If your sieve is in a bowl, empty it once or twice to aid the draining.
I prefer a thicker ricotta, so I let it drain for the full 25 minutes, but feel free to call it at 15 or 20 if you like your’s more loosey goosey. (No geese were harmed in the making of this ricotta.) Keep ricotta in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. Makes about 2 cups.