Ricotta and cottage cheese are EASY to make and delicious! This tutorial will walk you through how to make ricotta cheese and small curd cottage cheese in about 30 minutes!
This year, I had a goal. A food goal.
What was it? I wanted to see how many pre-made, processed milk products I could cut out of my life. I didn’t want to stop eating them– I wanted to STOP BUYING them. (Or at the very least, stop buying them as often.)
Why? For one thing– the fresh, homemade dairy products taste better than the store-bought versions.
Store-bought versions also tend to have thickeners, additives and stabilizers added. (You can check this out for yourself the next time you’re at the grocery store.)
Was it worth it? YES– no question! And the best part is– homemade ricotta is EASY to make and delicious!
How to Make Ricotta: What is Ricotta?
Traditionally, ricotta is made from the whey that’s leftover from making certain hard cheeses (like Romano). In other words, the watery byproduct from some cheese-making processes is turned into the delicious, short-lived ricotta.
You probably won’t be able to find type of whey used to make traditional ricotta at your local grocery store– but that’s okay! Why is it okay?
Because you can make delicious– if untraditional– ricotta at home with just milk and fresh lemon juice.
What is Cottage Cheese?
Cottage cheese is a fresh cheese, and comes in both small curd and large curd. Small curd cottage cheese is made using almost the EXACT SAME PROCESS as homemade ricotta cheese, with one easy swap.
To make ricotta, you’ll use lemon juice, which will give you sweet, creamy curds. For small curd cottage cheese, swap the lemon juice for white distilled vinegar. The vinegar will yield a more neutral-tasting cheese.
Large curd cottage cheese is slightly more complicated to make, and requires rennet (or a rennet substitute), and cutting the cheese (no pun intended).
Large curd cottage cheese is a project for another day.
Can I Use the Leftover Whey?
When you learn how to make ricotta, you’ll probably notice that you’re straining off whey. If traditional ricotta is made with whey, you might wonder– Can I use the whey from this homemade ricotta?
You CAN use the whey from this cooking project– but not to make ricotta.
Since you’ll be curdling the milk with an acid (either lemon juice or vinegar), the resulting whey will be acid whey (or sour whey), which is different from the sweet whey you’d get from making hard cheese or yogurt.
Quick Tip: Here are a few ways to use acid or sweet whey.
Are these cheeses fermented food?
No. These are fresh cheeses that are not left to ferment. These cheeses should be kept refrigerated and used within a week.
How to Make Ricotta + Small Curd Cottage Cheese
To make homemade ricotta or cottage cheese, start by bringing milk to a boil. Next, add the lemon juice or vinegar, the milk will immediately curdle.
Then, you’ll strain off the whey– and voila! That’s all there is to it! Stir in a little salt, add cream if you want to, and then you’re done! Enjoy your homemade cheese on its own, spread it on toasted bread, add a little fruit and honey– or simply add it to your favorite ricotta cheese recipe.
Want more COOKING BASICS recipe ideas? Try these:
Want more RICOTTA recipe ideas? Try using your homemade ricotta in these recipes:
- Ricotta Cheesecake with Strawberry Rhubarb Topping
- Baked Eggplant Parmesan
- Granita Recipe: Berry Granita with Whipped Ricotta
How to Make Ricotta + Small Curd Cottage Cheese
- 4 cups milk (whole milk preferred) No ultra-pasteurized milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
For Small Curd Cottage Cheese:
- 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- salt + pepper
- Bring milk to a simmer or soft boil. (Approximately 180°F.)Tip: Microwave milk for about 9 minutes instead of cooking it on the stovetop for faster cook time and easier clean-up.
- Add lemon juice or vinegar to the hot milk. Milk will immediately begin to curdle.Tip: Lemon juice will make the cheese sweet like ricotta. White vinegar will yield a more neutral-tasting cheese.
- Let mixture cool for about 10 minutes. The solid curds will begin to separate from the watery-whey.
- Pour the mixture into a fine mesh strainer. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 5 minutes, or up to an hour for a drier cheese.Tip: No fine mesh strainer? You can line a colander with butter cheesecloth or butter muslin, or multiple layers of regular cheesecloth or muslin.
- Add the salt, plus more salt to taste if desired. For a creamier cheese, stir in the heavy cream.
- Store cheese in a sealed container in the fridge, and use within a week.
- Serve on sliced, toasted French bread as crostini. Add fruit, herbs, + honey as desired.
- Serve as a side dish, topped with peaches, salt, + pepper
- Serve as a side dish with berries and honey
- Use in place of store-bought ricotta or cottage cheese in any recipe
Homemade ricotta and cottage cheese are NOT fermented foods, but I got the idea from a book about fermenting food. Learn more here: