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Creamy Ricotta

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I am making roasted vegetable lasagna over the weekend. I've made it before, one time the ricotta came out smooth, rich and creamy, the other time it had more of a coarse texture. I didn't write it down, so I can't remember what I did to get it creamy. I may have used just egg yolks, and a touch of cream. Anyone know which way to go to guarantee it is creamy?
Thanks.

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  1. Well, to start, buy creamy, freshly made ricotta versus the mass-produced grainy version most supermarkets sell.

    1. I recently made a pretty good vegetarian lasagne with my left overs. I make a garlicky sauce with the ricotta cheese and dot the cheese too.
      For the ricotta sauce start by taking about 8 cloves of garlic mash intermittently with sea salt, and pressure from you knife adding olive oil and make a smooshy mix.
      To a cup of ricotta, add the garlic mix, and 1 egg, and 1/2 cup of romano, coarse pepper and thin it with milk. Mix with fork to you get a nice sauce and to the consistency you prefer. I made it like a thick tomato sauce. Good good stuff! Creamy and garlicky, less garlic well you know what to do. It keeps for about a week. I also added it to sliced zuchinni, topped with a little more romano and bread crumbs and ran it under the broiler for an appetizer.

      14 Replies
      1. re: chef chicklet

        I have actually been meaning to make my own (per the recipe below). I'm wondering if anyone else has tried making it?

        http://www.recipezaar.com/47259

        1. re: jules127

          Yes, I make my own at home. It's easy once you get the hang of it. But I wouldn't use yoghurt as the splitting agent - the flavour comes through. I lso consider the cream optional - if you're using American fullcream milk (which has generally a 10% fat content), it's going to come out pretty creamy and rich. Obviously, use the best milk you can find.

          What I do:

          one part buttermilk to four parts whole milk (for your first attempt, don't go bigger than 1 cup buttermilk, 4 cups milk) in a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pot. Place over medium heat, and stir for the first minute or so to heat the milk evenly. Then stop stirring, because it disturbs the formation of curds (or in this case, the separation of the albumen from the whey). Depending on how fierce your stove is, you will need to raise and lower the heat to keep it from boiling - steaming hot is okay though towards the end. It's best to go for a gradual heating of the milk, especially for your first attempt, until you learn what to look for. After anything between ten and thirty minutes, the mixture will separate into a creamy, slightly lumpy top layer, and a watery, slightly greenish liquid. Sometimes this is hard to see because the top creamy layer looks so solid. Poke the top with a spoon if you're unsure - it should look greenish and watery underneath.

          Turn the heat off. Using a metal mesh spoon (better than a slotted spoon) ever so gently scoop the curds off the surface, and transfer to a sieve placed over a bowl. This will take several scoops, but be gentle, because the less you break up the curds, the better the finished product. If there are any curds stuck to the bottom of the pot, resist the temptation to scrape them up - they're often a little rubbery from the heat.

          Let the ricotta (for that is whatyou now have) drain in the sieve for at least ten minutes, longer if you want a stiffer ricotta. Then transfer to a bowl, and stir through sea salt to taste (it won't taste like anything unless you salt it!). Chill in the fridge until you use it.

          This lasts anything from 3 to 6 days refrigerated, but is best eaten soonish, with good bread and olive oil. This amount (4 cups milk) won't give you a lot, but it's best to start out with small batches. You can feed the resulting whey to your cat, or use it to marinate chicken pieces, maybe with some extra buttermilk tossed in.

          1. re: Gooseberry

            Great, I can't wait to make some manicotti crepes for this homemade cheese!! How does it hold up when frozen? I like to typically freeze some and add sauce and bake later.

            1. re: jules127

              Hi Jules. I have never frozen ricotta by itself, or as a layer in lasagna. But I HAVE frozen ziplock bags of ricotta gnocchi mixture. It turned that slightly scary watery-yellow colour that milk products turn when frozen, but I defrosted the baggie in my fridge overnight, and when it came to making the gnocchi, they were totally fine. However, the gnocchi mix was ricotta and egg and flour and cheese, so I cannot comment on whether ricotta as a manicotti or lasagna filling would split or be texturally compromised. I'd say give it a go with quite firm ricotta (i.e. drained quite thoroughly).

            2. re: Gooseberry

              It seems awfully high, but while I could believe that the occasional cow's milk might have 10% BF, what commercial American milk has 10% BF? Around 4% is more like it and apparently the legal limit is 3.2% minimum... (See http://www.ams.usda.gov/howtobuy/dair... .)

              1. re: MikeG

                Hey Mike. It's been a while since I lived in the States, but I seem to remember buying whole milk with a BF content of eight or nine %. But I happily stand corrected! Where I am, it's about 4%, and has made pretty nice ricotta.

              2. re: Gooseberry

                Thank you for posting these instructions. I made a batch of this ricotta yesterday, and it's wonderful. The whole process took about 15 minutes. It's really nice with a drizzle of honey. I used regular whole milk and low-fat "buttermilk" from the grocery store; next time I might add a little cream, just to see if it makes a difference. It's much, much better than storebought ricotta, but I'm still wondering about the fresh ricotta I got from a guy in a truck selling cheese in Trento, Italy, a few years ago. Does anybody know what this was (now I'm thinking maybe it wasn't ricotta but some other kind of cheese), or how to make it? The texture was more like that of Greek yogurt—very rich and creamy—than ricotta as I know it (and now make it). Anyway, thank you again, Gooseberry.

                1. re: Liana Krissoff

                  Hi Liana,

                  I'm so glad you had ricotta success! I do believe the home made stuff is so much better than the stuff to be found in stores. The cream will definitely make it richer. The solids of ricotta are not so much milk fat as albumen - the protein found in milk. In Italy, ricotta is made almost exclusively with whey - the liquid left over from cheese making - which is pretty much fat free, with maybe a bucket of whole milk thrown into a twenty gallon tub of whey just to bulk it up a little. Basically, ricotta is a useful way for cheese makers to use up what otherwise would be fed to their (pancetta-destined) pigs!

                  I've tried making it at home with fat free milk, and it works too - with a slightly lower yield and more rubbery product (so clearly all the butterfat sticks with the solids when making ricotta from whole milk!). I like that richness, so I make it with whole milk. So cream will definitely make a creamier product.

                  In terms of Italian ricotta made in Italy - it is usually made with a combination of sheep and cow's milk (I've also seen pure sheep or pure goats milk versions), which definitely gives it a stronger flavour (much as sheep's milk produces a hard cheese with a different flavour). So if you have access to goat or sheep's milk, maybe try doing a mixed milk version.

                  I used to buy mozzarella off the back of a truck when I lived in Italy, too. It was driven up from the South once a week, and would park on a quiet side street, and the whole neighbourhood would line up to buy mozzarella and farm bread. I sometimes splurge on a ball of imported Italian mozzarella di bufala now, but it never tastes like the stuff in Italy tasted. Partly must be the freshness factor, but I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that Italian food tastes best, well, in Italy. But good luck trying to recreate those amazing flavours!

                2. re: Gooseberry

                  To adjust my own recipe (!):

                  I made a small batch (four cups raw cow's milk) this weekend, and for the small batches, I found 10 minutes draining WAY too long - was a lot more dry and solid than I like (I prefer a creamy consistency for dipping or spreading on bread). So I'd say four minutes draining, with occasional stirring, does the trick. Otherwise you could rehydrate it a bit by stirring in some whole milk or cream (just a splash), but that's not ideal.

                  1. re: Gooseberry

                    Agree: I dumped the curds out of the cheesecloth long before 10 minutes had elapsed, because it was firming up fast and I wanted a softer consistency.

                    1. re: Liana Krissoff

                      This is so great! I have made a few batches of ricotta over the last few months. I have tried this recipe here--which uses lemon as the curdling agent---http://tastingtable.com/recipe/Tastin...

                      and I have also used another that was buttermilk--here--http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/...

                      and while both results were delicious and so fresh, they turned out a bit too dry.
                      next time i will try not draining them in the cheesecloth for so long. I also wondered if i may have left the heat on too long. can that also make the results a bit drier and heavier?

                      i want a creamy ricotta, too!

                3. re: jules127

                  Oh so sorry! Hey that's a good question and one that I would love to know how to do as well. Looks like you got some good information.
                  Is Renet ever used it making this?

                  1. re: chef chicklet

                    Hi Chef C. You need an acid (and heat) to separate the albumen from the whey. You could use yoghurt, lemon juice, buttermilk (my preference, since you cannot taste it in the finished product). I have never used rennet in a home environment; I'm sure it might be an easier product to control in a production environment than a natural acid, but I think most home ricotta makers' attitude is: if I don't need, I'm not going to go to the bother of sourcing it.

                    1. re: Gooseberry

                      I recently made cows milk ricotta, and I agree that it is easy and wonderfully tasty. This has inspired me to want to try to make some sheeps milk ricotta, but given that this will require a 90 minute drive deep into La Petite Nation to procure some, I am wondering if anyone has tried this and if it was worth the effort. Anyone?

                      Regarding rennet to make ricotta, my understanding is that that is not the way to do it: This is because ricotta is traditionally made from whey, not milk. The whey itself is a byproduct of cheese making, specifically by adding rennet to milk. The curds are removed and other cheese is made with these, which contain mainly casein (which is about 80% of the protein in milk). Ricotta is made by acidifying the whey and cooking it ("ricotta" means re-cooked). The acidification can be achieved through bacterial souring or by simply adding acid (vinegar, lemon juice) to the milk. The acidification and heating of the whey coagulates much of the rest of the (smaller) proteins in milk, such as albumin.

                      Thus, "ricotta" prepared by the method discussed by others above really isn't technically ricotta. Instead, it is just regular fresh cheese (queso fresco, farmer cheese, paneer), the curds of which contains a combination of casein and albumin.