Homemade Ricotta

If you find yourself with more milk than you’re able to use or if it starts to go past delicious and you hate to waste it, make up this easy ricotta cheese.

You can use it in sweet dishes like filling for crepes and cannoli or in savory dishes like lasagne and ravioli. It’s great in an omelet, on a pizza or salad, or mixed with herbs and drizzled with olive oil to serve on crackers or cucumbers. It also freezes well.

This is fast and so simple, and it tastes so much better than any store-bought version, that you may never buy ricotta again. You can use whole milk or 2%, but skim doesn’t have enough fat. A half gallon of milk will make about a pint of ricotta, depending on how much you drain it. I usually I like to store it in some of the whey so it doesn’t completely dry out because I can always drain it more later if I want, but it can also be drained for a longer time to make it more of a farmer’s cheese.



– 1/2 gallon whole or lowfat milk (not skim)
– one or two glugs (2 – 4T.) white vinegar or lemon juice (acid is what makes the curds separate. If your milk is beginning to sour on its own, it may not take as much)
– 1/2 to 1t. salt (you may omit if using for a sweet recipe)


Bring the milk to a near boil over medium high-heat. Do not let it boil or it will burn on the bottom of the pan and can ruin the batch. Keep an eye on it and when tiny bubbles form across the top, just before it begins to boil, turn off the heat and pour in the vinegar or lemon juice and salt. My Italian friend said don’t stir it, but sometimes I’ll give a gentle swirl. Cover and let sit undisturbed for about 10 or 15 minutes. 

You should see curds formed at the surface. With a wooden spoon, check that the curds have completely separated from the whey by gently pulling from the edge towards the middle of the pot. The whey will be yellow and clear. If it is still creamy looking, add another tablespoon of acid and cover, waiting a few more minutes. 

Only a few times have I needed to reapply heat. Use a slotted spoon or pasta screen to skim out the curds into a fine mesh strainer (or line with cheese cloth if your strainer isn’t fine enough. You can let this drain from a few minutes to an hour or overnight in the fridge even, depending what you intend to do with it. The longer it drains, the firmer the cheese. 

The whey can be used for all sorts of recipes, so look that up before you just strain it down the drain. You can use it in place of your liquids in bread making, rice or pasta cooking or in smoothies and shakes.