A Lesson in Ricotta (and Crostini Six Ways)

Ricotta-10Brace yourself. You’re about to make homemade ricotta cheese.  Cheese so grand, you’ll likely sustain off a baguette smeared with it for the next few days (with wine…I won’t judge). The richest, creamiest most flavorful ricotta cheese that store bought will pale in comparison to. Believe me when I tell you, you’ll never buy it again.

Are you ready for your first lesson? Here it goes:

Forget any assumptions you have about DIY ricotta cheese being difficult.

This is the easiest recipe ever. Try it and I promise, you’ll wonder why you’ve never made it before. The only “equipment” required (I hesitate to even call it equipment) is cheesecloth and a candy thermometer, both of which can be found and Ralph’s or any regular grocery store. The only ingredients required are milk, heavy cream, lemon juice and salt. The only hands-on time required is about 5 minutes to measure, with about an hour of hands-off time when the curds separate from the whey in your handy dandy cheese cloth, during which you can brainstorm all the delectable uses for your homemade ricotta cheese.

There are far too many possibilities, from pastas to desserts; but to me, a generously salted smear on a slice of crusty French bread is one of the finest things in life. Then if you feel like jazzing it up a bit, there’s crostini. I’ll get your creative juices started with crostini six different ways using little more than a baguette and whatever was sitting in my fridge. Enjoy!

Equipment for Ricotta Cheese

Equipment: Nonreactive saucepan, candy or deep fry thermometer, fine mesh sieve, cheesecloth

Simmer Cream, Milk and Salt

Bring milk, salt and cream to a simmer.

Lemons

The lemon juice is a personal thing. The original recipe I used called for 3 tbsp which made the cheese very obviously lemon flavored. For the purpose of crostini I preferred the much more subtle taste of about 1-2 tsp.

Strain curds from whey

Pour the curds into the sieve lined with cheese cloth, filtering out the whey (the liquid).

Spreadable Ricotta

After about an hour, you will have creamy- dreamy spreadable ricotta cheese.

Ricotta Cheese

Makes about 1 cup

  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 -2 tsp lemon juice (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Line a fine mesh strainer with 2-3 layers of cheese cloth. Rest strainer over a large bowl. Set aside.

Pour milk, heavy cream and salt into a medium sized saucepan with candy thermometer (or deep fry thermometer) attached.  Heat mixture to 190 degrees F, stirring a few times to make sure the mixture doesn’t burn. Remove from heat.

Pour in lemon juice and stir only once. Let the mixture sit undisturbed for five minutes. Pour mixture into the prepared strainer and let the liquid (the whey) strain from the cheese (the curds) for at least an hour.

After an hour, discard the whey from the bowl and spoon ricotta cheese out of the strainer. Can be served immediately or stored in the refrigerator for about two days. If you choose to store it, the ricotta will firm up slightly.

*Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Crostini Six Ways 

  • 1 baguette, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh homemade ricotta cheese
  • various fix-ins, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with tin foil. Brush both sides of the baguette slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake about 10-15 minutes until the slices are golden but not burnt. Depending on your oven, you may want to flip the crostini halfway through. Let cool slightly and top with your favorite fix-ins

Crostini Assortment

Crostini Clockwise from Bottom Left:

  • Mix 1 tsp chopped basil with ricotta. Top with chopped grape tomatoes, salt and pepper
  • Ricotta topped with leeks sautéed in butter
  • The Old Fashioned: Ricotta topped with a drizzle of olive oil, pepper and sea salt
  • Ricotta topped with leftover roasted strawberries
  • Ricotta topped with smoked salmon and dill
  • Ricotta topped with blueberries and honey drizzle
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2 Responses to A Lesson in Ricotta (and Crostini Six Ways)

  1. ihtreuer says:

    Well done, just be careful, ricotta can lead to stronger cheese making, like Feta or Brie. I call it the gateway cheese.

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