The other day I wanted to make Spinach Gnudi but didn’t have the time to run to the store for the main ingredient, ricotta cheese. Now, I’m no Pioneer Woman with a 3-hour round trip to the nearest supermarket but we all have those days when it’s just not going to happen.
I knew that ricotta cheese was easy to make, or at least heard such a rumor, and in the back of my mind remembered my friend Fran telling me that she whips it up in the microwave on a regular basis. (No doubt for “Special Lunch Time” but that’s another story. I encourage you to read about Fran’s special lunch on Cookbooks365).
So I decided to give homemade ricotta a try. A couple of clicks and I landed upon the directions in Serious Eats. Milk, white vinegar, salt and boom! into the microwave we go. Four minutes later, I was separating my curds and whey. A quick drain in the colander and Spinach Gnudi here we come!
What I’ve learned since my first attempt is that the longer you drain the ricotta, the thicker the consistency. Makes sense. So a couple of minutes of draining results in a soft spreadable cheese, perfect for topping toast and drizzling with honey or scattering with some chopped tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. A longer draining yields a thicker product that may be better suited for making ricotta gnocchi. For the purposes of Spinach Gnudi or even lasagna, somewhere in between a couple of minutes and a couple of hours would be spot on. I’ve read that low fat milk will work equally as well, just yielding a lower fat, less rich cheese but I haven’t tried that myself.
The good news is that you really can’t go wrong, as any homemade ricotta will taste infinitely better and have a far superior consistency than the store-bought, mass produced product you’ll find in your local supermarket. So even if unlike The Pioneer Woman, your supermarket is just around the corner, I would boldly say, it’s not worth the trip. Make your ricotta at home.
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- Line colander with two layers of food-safe paper towels and set over large bowl or sitting within the sink.
- Combine milk, salt, and vinegar in microwave-safe glass 1-quart liquid measure (I use a large Pyrex measuring cup).
- Microwave on high heat until lightly bubbling around edges, 2-4 minutes (my microwave takes 4 minutes; milk should register about 165°F on an instant-read thermometer).
- Remove from microwave, and stir gently for 5 seconds. Milk should separate into solid white curds and translucent liquid whey. If not, microwave for 30 seconds longer. Repeat until fully separated.
- Using slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer curds to prepared colander, cover exposed top with plastic wrap (if draining for more than a couple of minutes) and allow to drain until desired texture is reached.
- Store in covered container in refrigerator for up to 5 days.