Ricotta: Fresh and Aged

Enjoy ricotta fresh, or salt and age it to take the flavor to a new level. Get ricotta recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
Ricotta didn’t interest me as a homemade cheese until I spotted an aged, salted version in Karen Solomon’s Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It. She described its texture and saltiness as resembling Romano but less complex. That, I thought, is a cheese I could love. Homemade Romano is a cultured cheese that is repeatedly molded, pressed, brined, and salted before it is aged 8–12 months. So a substitute that takes less than an hour of hands-on time and is ready in a week or so seemed perfect.

This aged cheese starts with ricotta made entirely from fresh milk. If you already make Lemon Cheese, the ricotta recipe will look familiar: it’s essentially the same cheese, although I tend to drain it for less time so that it’s soft and moist. Like the lemon version, it can be eaten fresh. I often make a double batch of ricotta, setting aside half to enjoy straightaway and aging the other half into the Romano replacement.

The only ingredient difference between Whole-Milk Ricotta and Lemon Cheese is the acid used to separate the curds from the whey. The ricotta recipe uses citric acid, a powder with a sour, neutral flavor rather than a lemony one. It’s usually easier to find than the cheese cultures in last week’s post; if you can’t buy it from a local natural-foods store, you can order it online from the sources I provided for cheese cultures.

Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You need just 3 ingredients: milk, citric acid, and salt.
1. Heat the milk and citric acid.
2. Let it ripen.
3. Pour off the whey and drain.
4. Salt and enjoy.

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Whole-Milk Ricotta

  • Servings: 1-1/2–2 pounds
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Print
1 gallon pasteurized whole milk
2 teaspoons citric acid
1/2 cup unchlorinated water
1 teaspoon flaky kosher salt or cheese salt, or to taste

Gather and sterilize your equipment. Pour the milk into a large, heavy-bottom pot. Stir the citric acid and water together in a small cup. Add half of the citric acid solution to the milk and mix thoroughly; set the remaining solution aside.

Over medium-low heat, bring the milk to between 185°F and 195°F; this should take 15–20 minutes. Occasionally, stir it slowly, but avoid breaking up small curds. Look for the curds to separate from the yellowish, clear whey; if the whey stays milky, add the remaining citric acid solution, a teaspoon at a time, until the whey clears.

Turn off the heat. Gently run a rubber spatula around the edge of the curds to help them form a mass. Cover the pot and let the curds sit undisturbed for 15 minutes.

Set a colander over a large bowl or pot and line it with a single layer of butter muslin. Ladle the whey and then the curds slowly into the cloth so that most of the whey runs through before the curds slide into the colander. Let the curds drain for about 5 minutes, until most of the whey has dripped into the bowl; the whey can be reserved for another use.

Tie two opposing corners of the cloth into a knot, and then tie the other two corners around a wooden spoon handle or other support so that it can hang over the pot to drain. Let the cheese drain for 15–20 minutes. Return the cloth to the colander, open it, and use your fingers to mix in the salt.

If desired, remove the fresh ricotta from the cloth and use it. For a denser, richer cheese, continue to let it hang and drain for up to 2 hours, or turn it into Ricotta Salata (see below). Store unaged ricotta in a lidded container in the fridge for 5–10 days, depending on the moisture level. Makes 1-1/2–2 pounds.

Tips & Tricks
  • If your largest pot has a thin or grooved bottom, it may be best to heat the milk in a water bath. You can set it up as you did for last week’s Homemade Fromage Blanc but heat the water with the container of milk inside it.
  • For a creamier consistency, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of heavy cream after draining the curds. You can also add 1/2 cup of cream to the pot before heating.
  • Enjoy fresh ricotta anywhere you would use Lemon Cheese. It’s delicious rolled into crepes, stuffed into pierogi or calzones, or tossed in a salad.

Twice as Tasty

Enjoy ricotta fresh, or salt and age it to take the flavor to a new level. Get ricotta recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.If you want to take your ricotta to the next level, you can press, salt, and briefly age it. The result won’t have the density of Romano, but it’s a lovely salty, grateable cheese.

You may already be familiar with some of the techniques used for Ricotta Salata. If you’ve pressed Lemon Cheese into Fresh Paneer, you understand the basic concept. The difference here is that you need a bit more precision to get a firm, dense, grateable cheese that will keep several months. If you’ve already made Dry-Salted Feta, you’ll find some of the tools and techniques familiar—they just continue over a longer period.

The Tools

Enjoy ricotta fresh, or salt and age it to take the flavor to a new level. Get ricotta recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
Last week’s post on cultured soft cheeses delved into the basic technique and special ingredients that make those cheeses work. This week’s cheeses require fewer special ingredients, but you’ll need to consider some tools.

You’ll need three essential cheesemaking tools: a large pot and thermometer when making Whole-Milk Ricotta and butter muslin or cheesecloth for both the fresh and aged versions. The other cheesemaking tools I describe here can use up money and kitchen space but may be worthwhile if you get hooked on homemade cheese. Until then, you can cobble together the setup I use for Ricotta Salata:

  • Cheese form or mold. Ricotta forms are usually round baskets with a fairly open weave. I have a perforated mold with a follower that I use for hard cheeses and that gives a similar shape; sometimes I use a feta mold. A sturdy berry basket and other container you’ve poked full of holes will work too.
  • Cheese mat and drip tray. These two tools are typically sized so that the perforated mat fits fully in the tray. I use a sushi mat set on a dinner plate and checked often to make sure the whey didn’t overflow the rim.
  • Cheese weight. Instead of buying a weight sized for a cheese mold, you can use a jar or other container that fits in your chosen form. Fill it with water so that it weighs 2–3 pounds and seal it before setting it on the wrapped cheese.

The Recipe

Enjoy ricotta fresh, or salt and age it to take the flavor to a new level. Get ricotta recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You just need Whole-Milk Ricotta and salt.
1. Press the cheese in a cheese form.
2. Flip and press again.
3. Flip, salt, and press daily for a week.
4. Enjoy immediately or age for more flavor.

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Ricotta Salata

  • Servings: 3/4 pound
  • Difficulty: 1
  • Print
1 batch Whole-Milk Ricotta
about 4 teaspoons flaky kosher salt or cheese salt, divided

Set a cheese form on a cheese mat and its drip tray. Line the form with clean, damp butter muslin. Press the drained Whole-Milk Ricotta evenly into the cheese form, wrapping it in the cloth. Add a 2- to 3-pound weight and press the cheese for about 1 hour.

Remove and unwrap the cheese, flip it and rewrap it in the same cloth, and put it back into the form on the mat and tray. Press under the same weight for 12 hours or overnight.

Remove and unwrap the cheese and lightly rub the surface with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Redress the cheese, return it to the form, set it on the mat and tray, and refrigerate for 12 hours. Remove the butter muslin, instead draping the form with a clean butter muslin or tea towel.

Every day for 1 week, turn the cheese, sprinkling and rubbing about 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the entire surface. After 3 days, remove the cheese from the form but keep turning, salting, and aging it on the mat and tray.

After 1 week, brush off excess salt, wrap the cheese in parchment or waxed paper, and store it in a bag or lidded container. For the best flavor, let the cheese age another 2–4 weeks. It should keep for up to 2 months. Makes about 3/4 pound.

Tips & Tricks
  • This cheese wants to stay cool and dry out as it ages, so I typically just put it in my primary refrigerator, rather than the little dorm fridge I use as my “cheese cave” to age hard cheeses at warmer temps. If your cheese picks up flavor from other fridge items, you can put it in a lidded container, but check it more frequently for excess moisture.
  • Unwanted mold can sometimes appear as the cheese ages; gently rub it off with butter muslin dampened with salted water. If the cheese becomes soft with moisture, gently pat it dry with a clean cloth, salt the surface again, and return it to the fridge.
  • Pressed fresh cheeses lend themselves to decoration. Place a flattened herb sprig or edible flower in the bottom of the form; it will settle into the cheese as it ages. For gifting, divide the fresh cheese into several smaller forms for pressing, each with their own herb accent.
  • Enjoy aged ricotta anywhere you would use a salty, grated cheese, such as Pasta with Roasted Pumpkin and Parmesan, Thin-Crust Pizza, or Balsamic-Roasted Radishes.

What goes well with salty cheese? Pickles! Get a signed copy of The Complete Guide to Pickling to fill your shelves and fridge with vinegar and fermented pickles, chutneys, hot sauces, salsa, and more. At the same time, pick up the The Pickled Picnic to learn how to use pickles and leftover brine in a range of recipes. Click here to order.


6 thoughts on “Ricotta: Fresh and Aged

  1. Pingback: A Guide To Queso De Burgos Substitutes | Substitutes.io

  2. Lisa

    Hi Julie,
    I avoid dairy, and I’ve made soy-milk ricotta successfully, but I’ve wanted a ricotta salata-style cheese to use for certain things. So I’m eager to try this method soon, with soy milk! I think my wooden tofu-making mold will work too, for the aging part. Thanks!


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