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This ricotta recipe is the perfect starting point for the aspiring cheesemonger.
I love ricotta and use it a lot in cooking: to fill ravioli or to spoon over warm vegetables, for example. I started making it when I was experimenting with young curd cheeses. Although it is often referred to as a cheese, ricotta is actually a by-product of cheese making. The whey that is drained off from the cheese curds is reheated to make ricotta—hence the name, which translates as “recooked.”
My recipe for ricotta, however, is made by gently heating whole milk, then adding a little vinegar to encourage little curds to form. I’ve tried using buttermilk and lemon juice, but I’ve found vinegar gives better results. The quantity of vinegar is all-important: too little and the curds won’t form properly; too much and the end result will taste unpleasantly acidic. Because this recipe is so simple, it is essential to use fine-quality ingredients. The best ricotta I have made used raw, unpasteurized milk, though this is hard to come by. Ricotta tends to spoil easily, so it needs to be used within a day or so of making.