How to Make Fresh Ricotta Cheese plus an Easy Pasta Recipe

by formerchef on October 6, 2009

Post image for How to Make Fresh Ricotta Cheese plus an Easy Pasta Recipe

I really hate to waste food. It’s definitely a result of my upbringing. My grandparents were children of the depression and never threw anything away. Add to that, being fairly poor as a small child, and thriftiness was indoctrinated from a very young age.
So when I had 6 cups of whole milk left over from making the chocolate peanut butter ice cream, I was in a quandary as to what to do with it. We don’t normally drink whole milk (though I’m sure my husband would, happily) and I couldn’t let it go bad. I couldn’t make any more ice cream because frankly, I just don’t exercise enough to justify it. So what to make? Cheese was my final answer.

In addition, I don’t like to have to go shopping just to be able to make something (see my post on making a lemon blueberry tart). What was nice about this was that I didn’t have to go anywhere for anything in order to make the cheese or the pasta below. There are only 3 ingredients to make the cheese and I cheated a little by adding 2 cups of 1% milk in order to have 8 cups total. For the pasta, I used dried pasta from my pantry, home made marinara sauce  which was in my freezer, mushrooms from the ‘fridge, and herbs from my garden. Basically, my version of the”Eating Down the Fridge” challenge.

Fresh Ricotta Cheese
(adapted from Bon Appetit)
Printable recipe in PDF

8 cups whole milk
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 tsp salt

Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth and place it in the sink.

In a 4 quart pot, bring the milk to a simmer and be careful not to scald or burn it. Also, be careful not to let it boil over in the pot; when it begins to simmer it will want to do this.

Once the milk has come to a boil, turn the heat down to medium and add the salt and stir. Add the lemon juice and stir. Curds should start to form within a minute or two.

Once the curds have formed, turn off the heat and pour through the cheesecloth in the strainer. Let drain for a couple minutes, up to 15 minutes. The longer you let it drain the firmer the cheese will get. Place in a bowl or invert onto a plate and chill in the refrigerator. Recipe yields about 12 ounces.

freshricotta4 freshricotta5
freshricotta1 freshricotta7

Options and Ideas:
Add garlic, fresh herbs, sea salt and freshly ground pepper to the cheese while it’s still warm to make a tasty spread for fresh bread.
Use the ricotta for your favorite ravioli filling or in a pasta (see below)
Sweeten the ricotta with a little sugar, add chopped chocolate and candied fruit and use it for a dessert filling for cannoli or Sicilian cakes.


Easy Pasta With Marinara and Fresh Ricotta

1 lb short pasta
20 oz Marinara Sauce
1 cup sliced mushrooms (or other vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, onions, etc)
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 oz fresh ricotta, crumbled.
1 oz fresh herbs, chopped

Cook the pasta and drain.

Heat a large saute pan with the olive oil. Toss in the mushrooms (and/or other vegetables) and saute until soft. Add the marinara sauce and heat until bubbling. Toss in the cooked pasta and combine with the sauce. Before serving mix in 3/4 of the fresh ricotta cheese and herbs, reserving some of each to garnish the top of the pasta.


1 nina October 6, 2009 at 8:19 pm

I love making my own cheese, it’s just magic!!! I love the vibrant red of the pasta too!!!!

2 Eralda October 7, 2009 at 9:39 am

Looks delicious! I can’t wait to make my own cheese. Thanks for the recipe.

3 Vivian October 7, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Great thinking to utilize the leftover milk in this way. I have been making fresh ricotta for sometime now and absolutely love it. It has a much more pleasant texture to me than the supermarket varieties. Your pasta turned out absolutely gorgeous. I love the contrast of the ricotta against the marinara.

4 formerchef October 7, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Yes, I could have made pudding with it too, but I’m less likely to eat all of the cheese in one sitting. 😉

5 Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen October 8, 2009 at 9:49 am

This is great! I have been wanting to make ricotta, and I see that it requires few ingredients and is fairly easy to make! This is such good news. Thanks for sharing.

I know what you mean about not wanting to go shopping just so you can make something. I am all about substituting and using what you have available….interesting that my grandparents raised me in the same way! LOL!

6 formerchef October 8, 2009 at 9:59 am

Yes, if anything I think their frugal influence had more of an effect on me than my mom who probably rebelled against it (as children usually do).

I probably should have mentioned there are quite a few different recipes for ricotta out there. Some use yogurt or buttermilk or even vinegar as the “acid” to create the curds. Other recipes call for whole milk plus cream. I think I’m going to try it with all non-fat milk next time.

7 Mom October 8, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Frugal is my middle name, whipper-snapper. I was feeding a dozen hungry hippies on a pound of hambuger and a ton of zuccini when you still wore one piece suits.

Here’s what I learned from Grandma–and her father too: you can make a meal of anything, if you allow your self to go outside what you think should go together–and nothing get tossed, cuz left overs can always go ” inna da sauce”..

BTW, Jimmy’s cheese was made with 2% milk, and after about a week, devleoped a stronger taste.

8 Ciaochowlinda October 9, 2009 at 12:20 pm

We normally don’t drink whole milk either, but you’re making me want to run to the store and get some to make this cheese.

9 formerchef October 9, 2009 at 12:37 pm

You could certainly try it with low-fat milk if that’s what you have. I’ve be very interested to hear how it comes out!

10 Betty October 9, 2009 at 12:37 pm

This looks so delicious and so simple! Yum. I am definitely going to make the fresh ricotta! Thanks so much for sharing!

11 alice October 17, 2009 at 12:07 am

I love fresh ricotta and I love your pictures how you show how to make it step by step. Nice!

12 josh bornstein October 28, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Interesting. I have made paneer (ie, Indian cheese) for years, and this is the exact same recipe. I never knew that it was essentially identical to ricotta. (The end steps are a bit different, in order to end up with very compacted curds, which are then cut up into small squares.) The next time I make paneer, I’ll put some of the curds aside, to use as ravioli fillings. Yum.

13 formerchef October 28, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Yes, for ravioli you’ll want to leave it a bit more ‘wet” so it stays softer to mix with other ingredients for ravioli. I never really put it together, but paneer is very similar! Basically this recipe is just want a lot of cultures call “farmer’s cheese.”

14 Erika Kerekes December 13, 2009 at 12:23 pm

I tried fresh ricotta once with very bad results (a huge mess, mostly). Am thinking I might be brave enough to try it again. Thank you for the inspiration – I’ll let you know how it goes.

15 Myra December 19, 2009 at 4:42 pm

I just made this with chives, cracked pepper and garlic. It was so satisfying and easy to make my own cheese; I can’t wait to make it again for Christmas.

16 Fran August 1, 2010 at 2:30 am

Looks like something I should try considering I have all the time in the world at the moment. Thanks for this recipe!

17 Luanne August 9, 2010 at 8:16 am

I made this ricotta on Sunday with Horizon Organic. It’s terrific! I was a concerned about the direction, “be careful not to let it boil….once it comes to a boil”, but when it was on the verge of boiling, I added the salt and proceeded with the lemon juice. Kudos for having this recipe on your blog!

18 formerchef August 9, 2010 at 8:23 am

You’re right! I can see that would be a little confusing. Thanks for letting me know, I’ll have to adjust the recipe.

19 Kyle September 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Just wondering…. Do you throw out the cheesecloth after you use it?

20 formerchef September 25, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Yes, the kind I have is meant to be disposable. I suppose there are some which can be washed.

21 Eliza September 26, 2011 at 10:01 am

Now that I made my fresh Ricotta cheese…. how long would it properly keep in fridge?

22 formerchef September 26, 2011 at 11:44 am

I think it should be good for maybe a week, but it never stays around for that long in my house!

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