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Homemade Ricotta

Copyright © 2012 by Jennifer May

Yield: Yields about 3/4 lb. (1-1/2 cups)

Unlike other homemade cheeses, ricotta requires neither cultures nor rennet. All you need is a half-gallon of milk and a lemon or two. The secret is to heat the milk slowly at a low temperature, stirring only a few times. Make it in the morning and use it in that night’s lasagne, or just drizzle it with honey and eat with a spoon.

This recipe is excerpted from The Homemade Pantry. Read our review.


  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1-1/2 to 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • Kosher or sea salt to taste (optional)


  • Ice a large, heavy pot (see tip above). Add the milk and the lemon juice, and cream, if using, to the pot and stir without touching the bottom of the pot for 5 seconds.
  • Place the pot over low heat and attach a candy or cheese thermometer to the inside of the pot. Heat the milk mixture to 175°F. This should take 40 to 50 minutes, and you can stir once or twice over the course of this time.
  • Raise the heat to medium-high, and without stirring, watch the pot until the temperature reads 205°F, 3 to 5 minutes. The surface of the milk will look like it is about to erupt, but it shouldn’t boil. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Now you have curds and whey.
  • Lay a fine-meshed sieve over a large bowl or jar and line it with a double layer of damp cheesecloth. Using a large slotted spoon, scoop the curds into the cheesecloth. Let the cheese drain for 10 minutes, and if you like, sprinkle salt over the top of the curds.

Make Ahead Tips

The ricotta can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

Store in a covered container in refrigerator for up to 3 to 5 days. Do not freeze.


To prevent your pot from scorching, try “the cheese queen” Ricki Carroll‘s technique of “icing” it: Put an ice cube in the pot and move the pot around so the ice covers every inch of the bottom as it melts. When the ice is entirely melted, leave the cold water in the pot and just add the ingredients to it. As long as you don’t touch a metal spoon to the bottom of the pot as you stir throughout the recipe, the milk won’t scorch the bottom of the pot.Reprinted from the book The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila.  Copyright © 2012 by Alana Chernila.  Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.


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Reviews (3 reviews)

  • OttawaCook | 02/26/2015

    Easy peasy - came out exactly as described. I only had bottled lemon juice on hand but it was fine.

  • stephsisk | 05/20/2012

    This was tasty, although getting the milk to 175 degrees takes MUCH longer than 40 to 50 minutes on low heat when using cold milk. The recipe never states if the milk should be room temperature or cold.

  • Verybusybee | 05/20/2012

    I followed this ingredients and steps in this recipe and the ricotta was absolutely delicious. There are two reasons to try this recipe. Firstly my themometer decided not to work so I followed the instructions best I could and heated the ingredients very slowly for the recommended time and removed the pot just as the milk appeared it was going to boil. After 10 minutes I had excellent curds and whey. Of ALL the recipes I have tried, this has been the best and produced the MOST ricotta from the ingredients. The second reason for definitely trying this recipe? When a family member decides that its so good they eat it straight from the container in the fridge, standing with the door open. Cant get much better than not even being able to take the plate from the fridge, especially when double dipping is a "no no" at home.

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