Homemade Basil & Lemon Ricotta Recipe
Pictured: Ricotta crostini two ways
Making homemade lemon basil ricotta has been one of my favourite things I’ve learned during quarantine. A big part of me wanted to keep this recipe a secret, so that I could impress at dinner parties post-quarantine. But I felt that defeated the purpose of Middle of Somewhere, and my desire to share out the most wonderful finds. So alas, here you have it – my new dinner party secret. All I ask is that if I invite you over and serve you homemade ricotta, please pretend to be impressed with how difficult it must have been to put together (even if you now know better…).
Ingredients, Tools & Time
- 2L of Whole Milk (anything below 3.25% doesn’t have enough fat. There’s no room for calorie counting here – you’re making cheese, remember?! Don’t you dare skimp on the good stuff!)
- Handful of Basil (up to interpretation & personal preference, but I use a spring with 4-5 large leaves)
- Juice squeezed of 1 Lemon
- 1/4 cup White Vinegar (note: you can use white wine vinegar as a substitute, but I found it tasted and separated better with regular white vinegar)
- Salt, to taste
- Optional: 1/4 cup Whipping Cream
- Large pot (big enough to fit the 1L of milk)
- Slotted spoon (the narrower the slots, the better)
- Mesh strainer (the smaller the holes in the strainer, the better, especially since this recipe is without a cheesecloth)
- Large bowl that you can sit the mesh strainer on top of (you’ll be straining the cheese through the strainer, into this bowl)
- 1 hour+ (note: most of the time is waiting for the milk to warm up or waiting for the ricotta to cool, so you just have to keep an eye on it; active time is <10 minutes)
Step 1: Heating to get a skim
- Add the full carton of whole milk and a handful of basil to a pot
- Stir in a pinch of salt
- Slowly heat (medium / low) until a skim produces on the top
- What the heck is a skim?! You know when you make hot chocolate and sometimes end up with a sheet layer of hot milk on the top? It’s that. Too long since you last made hot chocolate? The skim will basically look like a gloopy film of milk (yum, right?!). No worries, you’ll be scraping that off in Step 2.
- Note: If you heat it too quickly, you may not get the right consistency and you may burn milk to the bottom of your pot
- Avoid stirring too much, as it will will cool the mixture and increase your cooking time
- The time it takes to get to a skim is hugely variable and mostly depends on your stove and pot. Note that it could be anywhere from 10-20+ minutes, so be patient.
Step 2: Heating to an almost boil
- Scrape the skim off with a spoon and chuck it aside (into your sink – whatever works)
- Continue to heat until you see tiny bubbles forming around the edge (you want to bring it almost to a boil, but don’t want it to boil)
- Turn off the heat and remove the basil (some additional skim may come with it – that’s fine)
Step 3: Adding acid
- Quickly pour in the lemon juice & the vinegar
- Stir gently and allow to stand one minute – you should see the milk separate into cloudy formations
- If this doesn’t happen, try adding more vinegar & lemon juice (adding too much may make it taste sour, so be gentle!)
- Still no go? You probably didn’t have the milk hot enough. Try again or hope that you get invited to a dinner party serving homemade ricotta.
Step 4: Strain & Let Sit
- Place your wire mesh strainer over a large bowl
- Use a slotted spoon to carefully transfer the ricotta mixture to the mesh strainer; liquid will strain into the bowl below
- Once all of the cheese curds have all been transferred to the strainer, let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes
- Put the mesh strainer (including the bowl below) into the fridge to cool and to continue straining
Step 5: Add Salt
- Retrieve from fridge once cooled (~30+ minutes)
- Move the ricotta (i.e. the white cheese in the mesh strainer) into a clean bowl
- Add plenty of salt, to taste
- Optional: If you want your ricotta to be extra creamy, add the whipping cream now (add it in parts, until you get the consistency you want)
- You can dispose of the whey or use it as you wish (whey = the liquid in the bowl that was holding the mesh strainer)
Step 6: Eat!
- Eat your cheese!
- Put it on top of pasta with a basil leaf
- Use the ricotta as a crostini spread
- Add it to fresh or grilled fruit and honey for a snack
- Add on top on pancakes
- Incorporate into a salad
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