With a creamier and lighter texture and taste than the pre-packaged version, fresh ricotta cheese has a delightful flavour of the milk it is made from and a silken consistency, when added to desserts or pasta sauces.
If there is a sliver of doubt in your mind about why you should make fresh ricotta at home, the simple answer is that, it’s because you can. Making a batch of ricotta cheese at home is not only pocket-friendly, but also results in a creamier, richer flavour than the packaged stuff. Requiring barely two or three ingredients, the process is simple but requires a bit of attention to detail. Rest assured, once you crack the key to make fresh ricotta it would be hard to pick between the store-bought stuff.
All you need to make a solid batch of ricotta is some patience and pottering about in the kitchen, while you wait for the milk to simmer, before adding in the acidic agent (most often, lemon juice or vinegar). As the milk curdles, allow the curds to form fully before you strain it and run it under cold tap water. Using whole milk to make sure you get the maximum fat content, gives the cheese its creamy texture, as opposed to using plant-based or skimmed milk.
Using pasteurised milk or milk from a carton prevents the curds from forming fully and results in a loose, thinner cheese in negligible quantities. Homemade ricotta also allows you to control the percentage of moisture in the cheese, depending on how long you choose to let the liquid drain. If you want a wetter ricotta for sauces, letting the cheese spend no more than ten minutes in a strainer is advisable. For cheesecakes, fillings and other dishes, a thicker, denser ricotta is preferable.
Using the whey leftover from homemade ricotta is also beneficial in baked goods, bread or pizza dough. Moreover, you can use the whey as a thinning agent while whisking the ricotta to make it fluffy and airy. It is important to whisk the ricotta when warm, should you be looking for an end product that is fluffy and light. Wrapping the fresh, loose curds of ricotta and placing it in a soft muslin cloth, under a weighted plate, is great when you want to make a solid block that can be disintegrated periodically, if the cheese must be stored for longer. Either way, it is best if fresh ricotta is used up within a time period of two weeks.