What is ricotta cheese? Unlike other cheeses, which consist primarily of the milk protein casein, ricotta is made from the albuminous protein in milk. Casein forms curds in the presence of rennet, whereas albuminous protein is not affected by rennet. Rather, it precipitates from the milk (or in this case whey) by heat. Hence the name from the Italian meaning to recook.
How to Make Ricotta
I think I've got it down to about as simple as it gets.
- Simply put the drained whey into a clean pot and heat to 200° F (94° C). As it approaches this temperature, the albumin will separate from the water in the whey. Don't let it boil.
|Ricotta curds forming|
- Allow the pot to cool to room temperature. The whey will be a clear greenish-yellow color (from riboflavin, according to Dr. Fankhauser) with a cloud of ricotta grains floating near the bottom.
- Scoop out as much of the whey as possible, then gently pour the rest through a butter or unbleached muslin lined colander sitting on a pot or bowl to catch the remaining whey. You can skip the whey scooping part, but the ricotta particulates are so fine that they take longer to drain if some of the whey isn't removed first.
- Allow to drain. The cloth can be hung to facilitate draining.
|I like my ricotta soft rather than dry.|
- Turn into a bowl or storage container. Salt if desired and keep in the fridge until ready to use. It's said to keep for about a week.
- Yield: Starting with a gallon of skimmed goats milk for the mozzarella, I average about 5 ounces of ricotta from the whey. I'm guessing the yield from cows milk would be about the same.
That's it. No additional acid (vinegar or lemon juice) required. One of these is necessary for a fresh milk ricotta (or if additional milk has been added), but there is enough acidity in cheese whey to make ricotta without it. Dr. Fankhauser does recommend letting the whey sit overnight to increase it's acidity, but I've tried that and also tried making the ricotta immediately after I drain the whey from the cheese curds. I don't notice a significant difference in either taste or yield. It's easier for me to do it while I'm still in the kitchen messing with the mozzarella, so I do it then.Now what? Cheesecake and lasagna, of course, but I've been experimenting and here's one of the recipes that we think is a 5-star keeper.
|Greenish ricotta whey, so colored by riboflavin. There isn't much protein|
left, but I still feed it to the pigs and chickens or use it for cooking.
Gnocchi (Italian Dumplings)
- 1 cup ricotta
- 1 to 1.5 cup flour
- 1 egg
- pinch salt
Serve with your favorite sauce. They can also be made in soup broth as soup dumplings. My grandmother used to bake gnocchi in a cheese sauce like baked macaroni and cheese.