Its easy to make your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs
There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us really thought about it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it runs brilliantly as a much needed partner for the roots and roasts and punchier flavours well be feeing for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm vegetables. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to induce ricotta hence its Italian name, which means recooked.
My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to encourage little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow produces more ricotta. The sum of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end result will savour like a chip shop. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive tasted was built in Italy employing raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).
Some recipes require a certain type of ricotta. The kind you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started inducing my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might think. If thats a step too far though, you are able to stimulate the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre lucky enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.
As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any pancake or waffle will sit blithely next to a spoonful, and most fruits will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.