Homemade Ricotta with Whole Wheat Sourdough

This entry is a short interlude that doesn’t contain a bread formula, but rather, an accompaniment to just about any of the loaves baked here. I ate this with a recently baked whole wheat loaf made with fresh milled flour, my sourdough waffles and also my go-to white sourdough formula but I’m also eager to try it out on my walnut levain. Ricotta is incredibly versatile and you can find recipes abound, but as I’ve recently discovered it tastes far superior to store bought options when freshly made at home with good quality milk.

It was the Balloon Fiesta here a couple weeks ago and it was the perfect weekend for me to make this recipe. I used to attend the fiesta each year but as it is when you grow up somewhere you rarely visit the sights around you opting for places far and wide, anywhere but home. The fiesta is a pretty big deal here in Albuquerque, the unique terrain of the city makes for the perfect conditions to launch and fly balloons. The large Sandia Mountains and low valley create a sort of “box” that keeps balloons in the area for longer, before finally drifting away. Couple that with cool, crisp morning around this time of the year and you have ideal flying conditions. The shot below was taken from my backyard one chilly morning as the balloons ascended and drifted away.

International Balloon Fiesta

I really have no excuse for why I haven’t made this cheese at home until now, and it just might become a weekend ritual. The recipe is so easy, and it requires only a few things in your pantry, it makes me wonder why you’d ever have to buy this again at the market. If you decide to make pancakes or waffles one morning out of the blue, it only takes about 15-20 minutes to whip up a batch of ricotta and be ready to serve it warm.

The following recipe is based on Alice Waters’ Ricotta recipe found in her excellent book, My Pantry. I reduced the amount of salt by about 1/4 TSP (originally 3/4 TSP) as it was a bit on the salty side for my taste. Her recipe takes up only three quarters of a page in her book– that’s how easy this is. I think the key to making good ricotta is, naturally, using good quality milk (if you have access, fresh local milk is definitely best).

Milk Selection

Alice Waters recommends using milk that is not ultra pasteurized (UHT) as the result just won’t come out properly. It should be easy to find whole milk (even organic) at your local market that is not UHT, and I’ve tried this recipe now with a few different types. The latest attempt was using Kalona organic “batch pasteurized” whole milk, and the result was the best so far. Next to finding locally produced milk I’ve enjoyed this brand the most out of the options at my market (you can find this milk at Whole Foods). This milk is not only batch pasteurized but it’s also non-homogenized, meaning it will have the label “cream on top”. Essentially this means the fat in the milk is not distributed evenly throughout the liquid.

Kalona Supernatural Milk

So what’s the difference between UHT and batch pasteurized? UHT milk is heated to a really high temperature, about 280ºF, and then rapidly cooled. Through this process enzymes, vitamins and some proteins are destroyed, rendering it unusable for making cheese. Batch pasteurized, also called vat pasteurized, is heated to a lower temperature, but heated for longer, preserving more enzymes, vitamins and proteins and thereby making it more suitable for making ricotta. Chances are if you are buying batch pasteurized milk it will be fresh and organic, which is great.

Low temperature pasteurization, also called vat or batch pasteurization, is one of several acceptable ways to pasteurize milk, a process used to kill harmful pathogens.Berkeley Welness

I haven’t tried making ricotta with UHT milk just yet, but I’d be interested to see if it works. Has anyone tried this? If you’ve attempted this I’d love to hear about it below in the comments section!

Homemade Ricotta

A one-quart bottle of milk will make approximately 1.5 cups of ricotta. The liquid that’s leftover from this, whey, can be used in many other ways including baking sourdough. I’ll be experimenting with a whey sourdough loaf in the future — no sense in letting this go to waste! If you’re making this for a large group of people go with 2 quarts of milk and use a larger saucepan, doubling the other ingredients. One and a half cups of ricotta will disappear faster than you think.

Recipe Yield: approximately 1.5 cups

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
4 cups Whole milk, batch pasteurized, cream on top (avoid ultra pasturized)
1.5 TBSP Distilled white vinegar
0.5 TSP Sea salt

Method

  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan until it reaches 190ºF (stir occasionally to prevent scorching)
  2. Pour in vinegar and lightly stir, until the temperature raises back up to 190ºF. If you do not see any white curd chunks forming add in more vinegar, 1/2 TSP at a time until you do1
  3. Turn off heat & leave for 10 minutes untouched
  4. Place some cheesecloth over a bowl and gently ladle in the chunky curds from saucepan
  5. Slowly stir salt into chunks resting on cheesecloth

theperfectloaf_ricotta-5

theperfectloaf_ricotta-7

homemade ricotta

If you want your ricotta more firm, leave it to drain thoroughly in the cheesecloth, and further, you can use a cheese mold or as I’ve done here, a tofu press with a weight on top. Place the mold on a dish and let sit in the fridge for a day or so. My iconic fish, an incredibly heavy cast iron bottle opener I’ve had for just about ever, stepped in to help gravity do its job.

The tofu press I have is a nice one, made completely from wood and if you ever find yourself making actual tofu this is the one to get. I think at this point I’ve probably used it to make ricotta more often than tofu, but hey, I am Italian after all.

theperfectloaf_ricotta-1

This ricotta will last about 4 days in the fridge. We ate the entire batch warm, right from the stove, on top of my freshly made sourdough waffles. We placed a dollop or two of the ricotta on top of the waffles after a good slathering of butter, and then topped it all off with some light maple syrup. The warm cheese went extremely well with the slightly-sour crisp waffles and I would say perhaps a few blueberries would have taken it even further.

Homemade ricotta and sourdough waffles

But this cheese doesn’t just stop at waffles…

Homemade Ricotta with Whole Wheat Sourdough

Later in the day I chose to spread the ricotta on recently baked whole wheat sourdough made with fresh milled flour and the flavors worked so well together — it was delicious. The tender crumb and hearty flavor of the whole wheat was the perfect vehicle for cheese and honey. In addition to honey I’d also consider using pure maple syrup, a good Italian olive oil, or just spread plain.

theperfectloaf_ricotta-2

You can see above that this batch of ricotta was more on the firm side. I tried both more firm and more liquid methods and I prefer the more creamy and spreadable version. If you feel the same way, don’t let the cheese sit for too long in the cheesecloth and don’t let it dry out in a mold in the fridge overnight. It’s really wonderful when it’s soft and spreadable.

Pane perfetto

Wrap-up

I’ve eaten ricotta my entire life, and some of the best while traveling out in Italy, but making your own is remarkably easy and tastes so staggeringly good it’s a mystery to me I’ve not tried making this before. This cheese goes well with almost every bread recipe found here, especially with hearty whole wheat loaves and those with walnuts or other seeds added.

At this point I’ve been inspired by so many of Alice Waters’ recipes and writings I really need to buy her a spritz and have a nice long chat over some fresh cheese and sourdough. Until that date I’ll have to settle with reading her excellent books on cooking and her methodologies for applying seasonal and fresh food to our cooking lineup — perhaps more importantly, though, is my attempt to use as many of her recipes on or with fresh sourdough bread as possible.

Balloon Fiesta and bannetons

Cin cin!





  1. When using this batch pasteurized milk I did not immediately see this happen and had to add an additional 1 TSP vinegar. Keep in mind some of the chunks may be below the surface

  • Maree

    Wow! Yet again 🙂

  • quitecurious

    That looks delicious! I think I’ll make my own batch of ricotta this week. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • It really is so good, I wish I could force everyone into making at least one batch so they will be convinced 🙂 You’re welcome and thanks for the comments!

      • quitecurious

        Not related to ricotta, but when do you know when to feed your starter/use your starter for leaven? I’ve been struggling with making sourdough; my loaves end up very flat 🙁 Do you feed the starter when it’s at it’s peak, or after it has fallen? Thanks so much for your help…I’ve been reading all your posts for tips!

        • I’m working on a post that shows more detail on how I do this, hopefully it’ll be out next. There are many preferences and theories out there on this subject but I can tell you how I’ve been doing it lately and I think my bread has turned out best so far.

          I’m assuming you’re using a liquid starter. You want to feed your starter right when it’s at its peak and just about to start falling. Currently I’m feeding 30 starter, 100g flour, 100g water every 12 hours in my 73ºF kitchen (I bake a lot, though). But that will most likely be different for you as your temps and flour will be different. Try to observe your starter and see how long it takes to get to its peak and then fall. Once you take notice of its peak you can count on it getting to that level at that time each day, as long as everything else is kept the same.

          I hope that helps, feel free to ask more questions if anything is unclear! Just remember your starter is kind of another person in your household 🙂

          • quitecurious

            Yes, I’m using a liquid starter. I’ll try the 30/100/100 ratio. Right now I’m doing 50/100/100 and it peaks in about 5 hours or so, but then again, it’s been hot out here in CA.

            My starter feels like a pet, his name is Yukon and I talk to him when no one is looking 🙂

            Looking forward to the next post as always.

            • Hah! Ok, yes reduce the amount of mature starter by 20g and that should let it go a few more hours before you need to feed it. I bake pretty often so 2x feedings per day is good since I need my starter to be quite active. If you’re baking less then you can adjust so you only need to feed it once a day (and you can always refrigerate it if you’re not going to use it for a week or two).

  • Peggy Witter

    I am so glad that you gave the homemade ricotta a try, it is simple incredible isn’t it?! We have tired it with UHT with varied success ranging for no seperation at all to performing as well as unpasteurized milk. The taste was better than store bought but not as consistent as with batch pasteurized milk or even fresh local milk. Do you make your own pasta? We sometimes use the fresh whey in the pasta. I can give you no reason other than my grandmother did it on occasion. Have a wonderful week and thank you for sharing this version. (we use freshly squeezed lemon juice so I will be trying the vinegar as a comparison.)

    • Peggy — agreed, super easy but so good! As Jon commented below I’ll probably steer clear of UHT, no reason to risk it. My next attempt ill try to score some local milk.

      I’ve made my own pasta many times, I absolutely love the flavor. I’ve never heard of using whey in pasta but why not? I’ll have to add this to my list of things to try 🙂

      By the way, I’ve seen other recipes use lemon juice or other acidic liquids and I have yet to try them, Alice Waters claims distilled white vinegar leaves the least flavor impression but I’d like to try others as well. I almost always have a lemon on hand for cooking.

      Thanks for the comments and you have a great week also!

  • Jon, thanks! I was hoping you’d comment given your venture into cheese on IG. Also thanks for that quote. I don’t typically buy UHT milk but I was curious to see if it would work, I’ll definitely avoid it when making ricotta, no reason to try it.

    I’m definitely going to use the leftover whey in sourdough next time I make this cheese (probably next week). I’ve never added anything like that to bread so I’m very curious.

    Thanks for the comments!

  • Amazing article, once again!

    I’ve been curious about cheesemaking for quite a while and made some small experiments every now and then. Now I’ve got a feeling that Ricotta might be the next one 🙂

    • Thanks Jarkko! I’ve been meaning to try making cheese and after seeing how easy this was I had to give it a try. Can’t wait to hear what you think!

  • Thanks! You don’t have to use exactly the same flour, just find something similar! I typically go for more “all purpose” flour varieties (around 11% protein) for my white and whole wheat is the best stoneground 100% whole grain you can find.

  • bonnie rekers

    What about if you want to bake once a week? I need to hear this more than once, sorry to have you keep going over this with me!

    • Not a problem! If you plan to bake only once per week you have a few options.

      1) You can feed your starter just once per day (2x a day starting a day or two before you plan to make levain).
      2) You can keep your starter in the fridge the other days of the week, take it out 2 days before you plan to bake and refresh it twice a day (e.g. if you are baking Sunday, take it out Friday AM, discard a portion, feed, and repeat in the evening. Do the same Saturday. Sunday in the AM build your levain and mix later in the day). Once you build your levain feed your starter per usual and put back into the fridge after you let it sit for 30 minutes to get up and running.

      I hope that helps!

  • Jake Stavis

    made the ricotta with great results! I’ve made your beginner’s sourdough a bunch and am wondering if you think I could use the whey with that recipe in place of (some of) the water? and if so, how much whey would you use? thanks!

    • Excellent! It’s so handy to have some around in the fridge, and when you have fresh bread it’s a perfect pairing. Yes you could definitely use some of the whey to supplant the water. Actually you probably could do that with most of the recipes here without any issue. Have you seen my Polenta & Rosemary recipe? I cooked the polenta in the leftover whey as well, it turned out fantastic!

      Happy baking, Jake.

  • Felice DeNigris

    This is amazing!!

    • Thanks! I hope you try it out, super easy and dang good 🙂

  • Jennine

    I just made this ricotta in less than ten minutes! I had about 3 cups of standard, grocery brand whole milk in the fridge that was about to expire. I threw it in my instant pot pressure cooker on the yogurt -> boil function. Added 1 Tbs vinegar when it beeped (The milk was at 184 degrees F). Gave it a good stir, strained it in a flour sack towel, sprinkled with sea salt and just like that… done! I plan on using it for some lasagna later tonight. I will use the whey to cook the noodles and thin the sauce. I can’t wait for dinner.

    • Oh how I want one of those Instant Pots! I’ve had one in my to-buy cart for a long while now — you may have just finally pulled the trigger for me. You really knocked it out with the use of that whey and the ricotta, well done! Heading to Amazon right now… 🙂