Easy and forgiving, homemade ricotta cheese is one of those culinary endeavors where the outcome far exceeds the effort. Even the hastiest, most inexpertly made version will have exponentially more flavor than supermarket tubs. It's an ideal dish for DIY enthusiasts or anyone looking to impress at their next dinner party.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n"I think ricotta is a fantastic gateway to the world of cheesemaking," says Alisha Norris Jones, cheesemonger at Immortal Milk in Chicago. \u201cNot only is it satisfying to see the first few steps of cheesemaking in action, making ricotta forces the aspiring cheesemaker to consider their milk sources.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nRicotta recipes require very few ingredients, so each one counts. For instance, Norris Jones says, while she seeks out fresh, farmstead milk to make cheese, she\u2019s less discerning with what she pours over her cereal.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nTo make ricotta at home, start with milk that hasn\u2019t undergone ultra-high temperature (UHT) pasteurization, a process that changes milk\u2019s protein structure and makes it difficult to separate the curds from whey in cheesemaking. Whole milk is key, too, as you need enough fat content to create delicious, distinct curds for your ricotta.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nEmbrace the search for the ideal dairy, says Norris Jones. \u201cUltimately, in the hunt for fresh, rich milk, one will find themselves at a local farmers market, homestead cheese operation or the dairy aisle of their local food cooperative,\u201d she says. \u201cGetting more involved in your food system is great for your body, community and lasagna.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\n"Ricotta is a fantastic gateway to the world of cheesemaking.\u201d \u2014Alisha Norris Jones\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIngredients for fresh ricotta also include a coagulant like white vinegar, lemon juice or citric acid. We prefer white vinegar, since it\u2019s inexpensive, widely available and has a consistent pH to create reliably successful ricotta. However, you can also substitute an equal amount of lemon juice or citric acid into the recipe below with great results.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThis recipe produces a considerable amount of whey as a byproduct. While it\u2019s not needed here, hang onto it, because whey is a versatile ingredient with many uses for enterprising home cooks. You can substitute whey for water in bread, pancakes, mashed potatoes, grits or polenta recipes with flavorful results. Covered in the refrigerator, leftover whey lasts up to one week. It can also be frozen for up to three months.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAs for how to enjoy your homemade ricotta, the sky\u2019s the limit. Try it in lasagna, dolloped on pizza or spread on toast. Norris Jones likes to sweeten and whip hers into spuma di ricotta, \u201cwhich is essentially ricotta mousse,\u201d she says. \u201cWith fresh fruit of your choosing, it\u2019s a lovely summer dessert.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThat's for when she\u2019s serving her homemade ricotta to company. Alone, her preferred method is \u201cat midnight, by the spoonful, in front of the refrigerator, with a twist of fresh cracked pepper.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nYour ricotta, your rules.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nHomemade Ricotta Recipe\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIngredients\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n1 quart (4 cups) whole milk, not UHT pasteurized\r\n\u00bc cup plain whole yogurt\r\n3 tablespoons white vinegar\r\n\u00bd teaspoon kosher salt\r\n\r\n\r\nInstructions\r\n\r\nLine strainer with cheesecloth or coffee filter and place over large bowl. Set aside.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nPhotography and styling: Caitlin Bensel\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAdd milk and yogurt to medium-sized pot and stir to combine. Place on stovetop over medium-high heat. Using thermometer, bring mixture to 200\u00b0F. It may foam, steam and form an opaque skin as it comes to temperature. If it begins to boil, remove pot from burner, lower heat and return pot to medium or medium-low heat until milk-yogurt mixture reaches 200\u00b0. This can take 10\u201315 minutes, depending on stovetop and pan.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nPhotography and styling: Caitlin Bensel\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWhen mixture has come to temperature, remove from heat and add white vinegar and salt. Gently stir, and leave to sit, uncovered and off heat, for 15 minutes or until curds begin to appear. If curds don\u2019t appear after 15 minutes, stir in additional \u00bd teaspoon white vinegar and let sit another 5 minutes.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nPhotography and styling: Caitlin Bensel\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAfter milk-yogurt mixture has separated into curds and liquid whey, pour through cheesecloth-lined strainer over bowl. Let liquid whey drain into bowl anywhere from 15\u201360 minutes, depending on whether a drier, crumbly cheese or more liquid ricotta is preferred.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nPhotography and styling: Caitlin Bensel\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSalt to taste. Homemade ricotta will keep, wrapped airtight in the refrigerator, for 1\u20132 weeks.