Ricotta Cheese: How easy was that?

Ina Garten, I love thee. I kiss your bare feet. Maybe not. Anyway I heard you on the radio last month (for Leonard Lopate's interview on WNYC click here) talking about your new book Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? And you started talking about homemade ricotta cheese. Leonard sniffed at the idea, wondering if it were too much trouble, and you gave him a gracious smackdown, distilling the process into three stupidly simple steps. You mentioned you had taught Nora Ephron (I love thee, Nora, I miss you so so much) how to do it and she called you later and said she'd made ricotta cheese four times in one week. I was sold. I had to try this.

Ina Garten's Homemade Ricotta Cheese

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar (I wasn't sure what she meant by good, I assumed that it should cost more than 99 cents. I bought Star because I like the shape of the bottle. We're not going for refined here, folks)
  • Cheesecloth (you don't eat it but you'll need it on your shopping list, unless you are one of those refined kinds who has cheesecloth to hand in your kitchen.)

Did you know that a quart of milk such as pictured above has exactly 4 cups? And that size of heavy cream has exactly 2 cups? I didn't either. Now we know.

Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.

Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan, stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into the thick parts (the curds) and the milky parts (the whey)

Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl (and occasionally jiggling the cheesecloth so you can see that yes, you really really have made cheese!). The longer you let it stand, the thicker the ricotta. Transfer the cheese to a bowl. Taste it immediately because you won't believe how good it is. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 5 days.

So? (Or as my friend Debbie would say, Nu?)


Easy? Totally. Worth it?  Oh yeah. Complaints? Well, in regards to "occasionally discarding the liquid in the bowl", you really do end up pouring a lot of your milk and cream down the sink which seems like such a waste. I'm sure there's something you can do with whey although I'm forever biased by Laura Ingalls Wilder, who tasted the whey in Little House in the Big Woods and didn't like it.

So what do you do with this stunning bit of dairy deliciousness? Ina's idea was to mix the ricotta with herbs and make little bruschettas. So I did just that.  Ina's recipe was to blend in minced scallions, fresh dill and fresh chives.  I only had scallions, dried dill, and chopped parsley so I mixed that up. I toasted my bread, drizzled with olive oil, spread the cheese on......and ate three of them. Myself. Without sharing.

Besides the bruschetta, I have been sneaking spoonfuls of this out of the fridge, my daughter eats it on any available cracker, and tonight we put it in panzarella. Totally totally delicious and yes, stupid easy. Who knows, maybe I'll become one of those refined types who has cheesecloth to hand in my kitchen.