I know what you’re thinking…”why spend a lot of time and energy making ricotta at home when you can spend a few bucks and buy ricotta in the store?” If you don’t want to take on this process purely for the sake of bragging that you made homemade ricotta, then do it because it has so much more flavor and better texture than any ricotta you’ll find in the store. And, if you’re into delicious Italian cooking, your recipes will be so much more successful. Especially the ones that call for fresh ricotta. You’ll definitely taste the difference.
It’s an easy process that truly doesn’t take much time. You do have to plan a bit ahead as it needs to drain in the fridge overnight.
Homemade Ricotta (makes 2 lb)
5 quarts whole milk
5 cups buttermilk
3 cups half-and-half
Combine ingredients in a large (at least 8 quarts), heavy-bottomed pan and cook over high heat, stirring gently every few minutes to distribute the heat evenly and keeping it from burning on the bottom. When curds start to form (1st photo), stop stirring. Bring the mixture to 175 deg (80C), as measured on an instant-read thermometer (place near center of pot and insert as far down as you can to get an accurate read). Turn off the heat and let cool, without disturbing, until the mixture reaches close to room temperature. Carefully transfer the pot to the refrigerator and let cool completely.
Once cool, line a large fine-mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and set the strainer over a large, deep bowl so that the whey can drain. Carefully ladle the curds into the strainer. Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerator, and let drain overnight.
The following day, transfer the ricotta to airtight containers. Seal tightly and refrigerate for up to one week. Do not freeze.