This will most probably be the first post on the topic, as my ricotta making is a work-in-progress. I will mention the different recipes that I have tried so far and give a short description of my experience with each one.
Kirstin of Vin de la Table has launched an event that, given my recent interest in making cheese and other dairy products at home, I could not miss, the Home Creamery Event. The event uses the book The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley as guide. For the first edition of the event, and therefore the first shared effort, Kirstin has chosen ricotta. Here is the announcement, where you can read the rules. And here is the roundup of the first edition of the event.
The word ricotta comes from the Latin recoctus, meaning cooked again. The name describes the process whereby ricotta has been traditionally made in Italy for centuries (nay, millennia), by cooking again the whey (siero di latte) left over from cheese making. When the whey proteins (the most abundant of which is lactoglobulin1) precipitate, they include air and coagulate in a mass that tends to float. The clots are collected with a slotted spoon and transferred into containers of varying sizes and materials (plastic, cloth, wicker) where ricotta is left to drain.
To increase the yield of the process, fresh milk (or cream) may be added to the whey. An acidifying agent helps the coagulation process. This may be citric acid, lactic acid (see the list of ingredients of this brand of ricotta I ate during my recent visit to Italy), or some acidified whey (called agra). Some salt is also usually added (and no other additives that I know of). The preceding remarks are generic: ricotta is made with whey from different kinds of milk (cow, ewe, goat, buffalo) after making different kinds of cheese, and regional traditions play a role.
My desire to make ricotta at home was one of the reasons I got interested in making cheese at home: I wanted to have the leftover whey (from milk to which cultures and rennet had been added) that would allow me to follow the ancient tradition. So far, I have tried four different recipes to make traditional ricotta. Note that I have been making ricotta using whey obtained by making different kinds of cheese (the Neufchâtel on this page [also on this page with photos], this basic hard cheese, some hard cheeses from the book Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll) and using a combination of whole, reduced-fat and non-fat milk and this has an effect on the characteristics of the whey I get.
- The result of this recipe was creamy, with an acidic nuance. [photo above] It required patience in the draining process, as the clots were quite small, After I made three batches, I had enough to make a pastiera.
- The recipe called "ricotta from heaven" from the book Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll: of delicate flavor, it also required a bit of patience in the draining process. [photo immediately below] Note that nothing is added to the whey in those two recipes.
- The recipe at the bottom of this page (How to make this cheese: Ricotta from Whey) gave a better yield, since I added milk (non-fat) to the whey. It was not as creamy and was a bit bland in flavor. The ricotta was the easiest to handle: I just ladled the curds into the mold. [photo below — I later purchased a ricotta mold]
- I repeated recipe #3, but used agra instead of citric acid and the result was my favorite so far. The ricotta was creamier and more flavorful (also a bit more difficult to drain, but still I did not use cloth). [sorry, no photo]
My plan for the immediate future is to repeat recipe #3 using less citric acid to evaluate the difference, then keep some agra for the next time, when I will repeat recipe #43.
Recipes for making ricotta at home usually list milk as the main ingredient2. High temperature and an acidifying agent cause the formation of curds, which are then are scooped up and drained. The different main ingredient and different process lead to different consistency and flavor of the final product.
For the Home Creamery Event, I decided to try the recipe from The Home Creamery that uses cultured buttermilk (latticello) to acidify the milk (method 1), for two reasons: I had not seen this variation before, and I did not want to use vinegar (an ingredient of method 2 in the same book). I divided the original recipe by four, using 1 qt. of non-fat milk and 1 cup of cultured buttermilk. I tasted the result after adding to it a touch of sweetener: the buttermilk flavor was detectable. I expected the consistency to be not very creamy, given my use of non-fat milk and also the process. However, I departed from the recipe in a couple of details, which may have impacted this characteristic of the final product, so I will repeat the recipe soon and evaluate the difference.
I have been going on for a while and I am not yet done with my story, because there is another part to the Home Creamery Event: the pairing of wine with the homemade cheese. Wine not being a topic in which I can offer an opinion, I asked for advice. From the set of suggestions received, I chose the wine shown in the photo. However, the pairing of it is not with plain ricotta, but with a dish that has ricotta as an ingredient. So, the wine photo is a token of a future post where I will tell you the rest of the story. Stay tuned!
1 On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee, page 20.
2 The ingredient list of store-bought ricotta should give you a sense of how it is made. If you purchase fresh ricotta from an artisan maker, ask him/her how it was made.
3 See ricotta fatta in casa (2).
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the ricotta fatta in casa audio file [mp3].
Ogni tanto la faccio anche io in casa, perchè quella che trovo in commercio qui in Germania è troppo cremosa e bagnata. Per la pasta ripiena, ad esempio, non va bene. Faccio scaldare il latte parzialmente scremato (a lunga conservazione) e poi ci metto della panna acida. Giro un po' con un pestolo di legno e il siero si separa subito dai fiocchi di ricotta. Nel giro di pochi minuti è fatta.
Devo provare con il latticello!
Posted by: Alex | January 27, 2009 at 12:57 AM
Good for you, Simona! :)
Posted by: maryann | January 27, 2009 at 05:52 AM
Ha un che di "magico" la preparazione della ricotta home made, ma io non mi sono ancora cimentata: farò tesoro della tua esperienza.
I fiocchi di ricotta ritratti sono estremamente candidi.
Posted by: lenny | January 27, 2009 at 11:43 PM
What a great post. Are you planning on trying to make other types of cheese? Like mozzarella?
Posted by: Pia | January 28, 2009 at 04:51 PM
Sono una tua "vicina di casa" in Bay Area e seguo da un po' il tuo blog. Non so se conosci Rosetta Coesntino, ma le sue classi, Cooking with Rosetta, sono fenomenali! Ad Aprile fa una classe solo sulla ricotta fatta in casa- la sue ricotta e' eccezionale, e voglio sapere i suoi trucchi! www.cookingwithrosetta.com
Magari ci riusciremo a conoscere!
Posted by: Vanessa | January 29, 2009 at 09:23 AM
I made anthotyro once, that's what ricotta is called in Greek after making Halloumi cheese. I don't think I'll repeat it again as it would be okay if I lived in a village and had milk to spare but buying goat milk to make it was quite expensive but it was a lovely experience. Your ricotta sounds delicious.
Here is the link if you would like to find out about Halloumi:
Posted by: Ivy | January 29, 2009 at 11:37 PM
Oh I am so interested in the wine pairing with your ricotta!
P.S. Love your new format!
Posted by: Lori Lynn @ Taste With The Eyes | January 30, 2009 at 09:06 AM
Ciao Alex. Quello che fai tu e' abbastanza simile, con la panna acida che funziona da agente acidificante. Ti consiglierei di usare latte non trattato UHT, se lo trovi.
E' certamente "magico" ricreare nella propria cucina un cibo amato, Lenny. E da' anche molta soddisfazione, se uno accetta il fatto che il risultato non e' sempre ottimale.
Hi, Pia. I have actually made several kinds of cheese, including mozzarella. I have not yet talked about the latter here, because I am not yet happy with the results. My most recent try marked a progress and I hope to write a post on it soon, so stay tuned!
Ciao Vanessa e benvenuta! Conosco di nome Rosetta Cosentino. Lo scorso Settembre su Saveur e' apparso un articolo sulla ricotta e lei e' di fatto la protagonista. La sua ricetta utilizza latte e panna. L'articolo parla della ricotta di pecora che viene fatta in Calabria col siero rimasto dopo la produzione di formaggio. E' la ricotta che mangiavo da bambina: e' buonissima.
Hi Ivy. Thanks for the info on Greek ricotta. I had actually read that even in Greece ricotta has been made for centuries. I'll check your post on halloumi. There is a recipe for it in my home cheese making book and I am planning to try. Thanks, Lori Lynn: I am glad you like the new look. I will talk a bit more about the wine in the future post.
Posted by: Simona Carini | January 30, 2009 at 02:14 PM
Simona, Hi, I've been waiting for this ricotta post! It sounds like science trying to get it all right, I don't know if I could ever pull it off! Your photo of it looks perfect though! How much then, did you get from a recipe? I really want to try this one day! I will be staying tuned!!
Posted by: Marie | February 01, 2009 at 06:36 AM
Voglio provare anche io, visto che sarà difficile trovare una buona ricotta da queste parti. Bella la nuova impaginazione del blog. Un caro saluto e un buon inizio di settimana.
Posted by: FrancescaV | February 01, 2009 at 10:54 PM
Hi Marie. The yield is quite variable, depending on the method, the cheese I made prior to using the whey and the amount of milk added. I seem to remember that recipe #3 yielded 350g, or about 3/4 lb, while recipe #4 yielded 250g, or about 1/2 lb. I don't remember how much I got from the last recipe described, from the Home Creamery book. I will be writing about ricotta again soon.
Ciao Francesca. La ricetta che usa il latticello e' piuttosto facile da fare, soprattutto se, come ho fatto io, uno diminuisce le quantita'. Fammi sapere se ci provi. Grazie del feedback sul nuovo look.
Posted by: Simona Carini | February 05, 2009 at 12:35 PM
I would love to have a spalmata of this ricotta on some toasty, crunch bread paired with a wine like Coenebium (a blend) from Latium or Pecorino (grape variety) from the Marches. I think the acidity in the cheese needs the bright acidity of a fresh, white wine. A Verdicchio would also be nice... Great post...
Posted by: Jeremy Parzen | February 11, 2009 at 07:35 AM
Thanks, Jeremy. I had no idea there was a type of grape called Pecorino. I'll follow up with you on the wine you mention, Coenobium. I know Verdicchio, of course. My ricotta is getting better. Another post on it is coming soon.
Posted by: Simona Carini | February 11, 2009 at 04:04 PM
Is there any difference between ricotta and formaggio?
Posted by: Jorge Villanueva | January 11, 2021 at 09:51 AM
Dear Jorge, thank you for stopping by and for your question. Ricotta is a specific food, made by coagulating whey leftover from making certain types of cheese. Formaggio is, like cheese, a generic term indicating a product obtained by fermenting milk plus additional steps, depending on the specific type. Strictly speaking, ricotta is not a formaggio, because it is not made with milk. Ricotta is eaten fresh, has a short shelf life, has a light texture, spreadable. I hope this answers your question.
Posted by: Simona Carini | January 31, 2021 at 09:28 PM