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Super Luscious Homemade Ricotta

Do you ever imagine what your life would be like if you could have a “do over”?    If you could just pick up and move wherever you wanted, where would you go and what would you do?   I think about that a lot – not because I don’t like where I am – because I do.   But because, in this great, big, wonderful world, there are many places I can envision myself being happy and productive in.    Take, for instance, when I visited Oregon [1] for the first time last Fall.  I was utterly enchanted by the panorama of gently rolling hills and beautiful gardens.  By the time my trip was over, I had a grand fantasy of  settling into my own charming country cottage surrounded by apple and pear orchards.  I’d spend my days harvesting nature’s bounty and lovingly creating delectable jams [2], jellies and butters [3].

Another place I can see myself living is the lush and fertile French countryside. I’d have a few cows,  goats and sheep – maybe some chickens too.  Not a lot, but just enough to keep me in enough milk, eggs and cream to make lots of custards, butter, brioche – and cheese.  Oh yes, definitely cheese!  Couldn’t you just picture me peddling petits pots of homemade fromage blanc and buttery disks of Camembert at my own roadside fromagerie?  Now, that would be something!

I’ve always been fascinated by the art of cheesemaking!   I adore cheese, especially soft creamy ones.  And, Mr. SGCC is an absolute cheesehound!   I’ve played around a little with making fresh cheeses like mascarpone [4], mozzarella and ricotta – although ricotta is actually not a cheese.   But, I’d love to learn how to do more.     Maybe someday I’ll find myself in a quaint little village in Normandy.  Who knows?  Until then, I’ll have to be content with what I know, like making this insanely rich and creamy, super luscious ricotta. 

While commonly thought of as such, ricotta is not technically a cheese because of the method used to make it. It is traditionally made from the whey derived from other cheeses, such as mozzarella or provolone. The whey is combined and heated with cow, buffalo or sheep milk, and fermented to form fine curds. In fact, the term “ricotta” literally means “recooked”. Once formed, the curds are drained through cheesecloth until they reach a thick, spreadable consistency.

Commercially produced American ricotta is typically kind of bland and watery, with a grainy texture. It’s good, but not nearly as good as homemade, which is almost always denser, creamier and ever so slightly sweeter. When tasted side by side, you can definitely appreciate the difference.

Luckily, this ricotta is not only super easy to make at home, but its flavor is far better than anything you can find at the supermarket. With an investment of only four ingredients and a couple of hours, most of which is waiting time, you will be rewarded with a batch of velvety and voluptuous, snowy white ricotta. It can be added to any recipe that calls for ricotta – sweet or savory.  You can use it in pasta [5] dishes or as a topping for pizza, as well as in pastries [6], cheesecakes [7], tarts [8] and pies [9].  I sometimes spread it on toasted baguette slices and top it with a little pesto, roasted peppers and tomato for a simple and delicious crostini.  It’s also wonderful mixed with crunchy granola and a drizzle of honey for a quick and healthy breakfast.  The possibilities are endless!   I must warn you, though. This stuff is addictive!

Whenever I’m in the mood to make ricotta, I stock up on the amazing fresh milk and cream from a local dairy farm just outside of town.  I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again.  Using the best quality ingredients you can find, really does make a difference in your final product – especially one with so few ingredients.

And, don’t you dare throw away the leftover whey from making this ricotta!  Yes, I know it looks kind of yucky, but it’s not.  Whey is high in protein and loaded with vitamins and minerals. It can be saved in the fridge for a couple of weeks and used in lots of ways. It’s a great addition to smoothies, soups and puddings. Whey can also be used in place of water when making homemade bread.  And, you can share the love by adding some to your dog’s food for extra nutrition and to promote a glossy coat.

So go ahead and impress your nearest and dearest by making a batch or two of homemade ricotta? No one has to know how simple it was to do. My lips are sealed!