Homemade Ricotta

Homemade ricotta with herbs

Borough MarketThis summer, we had a phenomenal family trip to London and Ireland.
While we explored the British Museum, Hyde Park, the Churchill War Rooms and the Tower of London, observed the Changing of the Horse Guard and took a spin on the London Eye, my thoughts were never too far from food. In fact, we kicked our trip off with a tour of Borough Market (I highly recommend Context Travel).

Tasting our way down the counter...
Tasting our way down the counter…

Celebrating and tasting your way through artisanal British and Irish cheeses at Neal’s Yard Dairy is a wonderful beginning to any day.  Meeting and sharing ideas with farmers, spice vendors, and even a tea importer helped us connect to London in a very real way. Continuing the unofficial theme of local foods, we planned our dinners at restaurants that embrace a farm to table philosophy, locally sourcing their products based on seasonal availability. We enjoyed delicious meals at St. John, The Harwood Arms, and Tom’s Kitchen. An absolute standout at Tom’s Kitchen was the “Homemade Ricotta [with] balsamic glaze, dried herbs, grilled sourdough.” Oh. My. Goodness. This ricotta was so incredibly luscious, smooth, and creamy- yet light and airy, that only the fear of public humiliation kept me from stealing the entire dish, huddling in a remote corner, and licking the bowl clean.

Homemade ricotta with bread from Tom's Kitchen.
The inspiration- Homemade Ricotta starter from Tom’s Kitchen.

Since our return home, that ricotta has been on my mind. We have a fairly wide selection of ricotta cheese at the grocery store, but it seems unfair to compare them to what I had in London. Even the best that I can get here is good, but not Tom’s Kitchen Homemade Ricotta good. What to do? The kitchen gods spoke. Challenged accepted. I learned to make my own.

It turns out, homemade ricotta is not hard to make. In 30 minutes you can be sitting down with your own bowl of lusciousness, ready to devour, spoon in hand. Even better, you control the ingredients. No fillers, thickeners, or stabilizers needed, just four simple ingredients- milk, cream, white vinegar and salt. It’s a bit like a science experiment, so if you have kids they are going to love this. But please don’t let “science experiment” intimidate you.  My nine year old is now making the ricotta on a weekly basis.

The final texture depends on how long you leave the ricotta to drain. Ten minutes yields warm, soft curds perfect for enjoying by the spoonful; twenty minutes yields still soft but slightly more spreadable ricotta, while thirty minutes or more will leave you with a firmer, drier, ricotta that holds it shape. Between 10-20 minutes of draining is my favorite for spreading on grilled bread- savory with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle of fresh herbs and a pinch of salt, or sweet with a drizzle of honey and topping of sliced berries. The ricotta that sits longer is perfect to dollop on warm pasta or pizza, either before or after it comes out of the oven.

PS- What about the whey? From 4 cups of milk/cream you will have about 1 cup of ricotta and 3 cups of whey. That is a lot of whey. Before you toss it down the drain you could…
• Replace the water with whey in pizza or bread dough recipes
• Add the whey to soups and stews
• Feed it to your chickens, pigs, etc.

Homemade ricotta with herbs



Homemade Ricotta

  • Servings: 1 cup
  • Print

*recipe inspired by several sources including Serious Eats, The Kitchn and Smitten Kitchen

3 ½ cups whole milk (NOT Ultra High–Temperature (UHT) pasteurized)
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup white vinegar
½ teaspoon salt

Line a sieve with cheesecloth and place in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine milk and heavy cream in a saucepan. Gently warm the milk mixture over medium heat until it reaches 180°. Remove from heat.

Add the white vinegar and salt, stirring gently once or twice to distribute evenly. Leave the milk mixture undisturbed for 10 minutes while the curds and whey form.

After 10 minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer the curds to the cheesecloth lined sieve. Once the larger curds have been placed in the sieve, carefully pour the remaining curds/whey into the sieve. Let drain for at least 10 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached. The longer the ricotta drains, the firmer it will be.

Transfer to storage container and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Enjoy as you would any ricotta, savory or sweet… in lasagna, ziti, cannoli, atop grilled bread, or just by the spoonful from the bowl!

Milk and cream heating on the stove until it reaches 180°.
Heat the milk and cream mixture to 180°.
The milk/cream mixture is curdling.
After adding the vinegar gently stir once or twice. Leave undisturbed for 10 minutes while the curds develop.
Removing the curds with a slotted spoon.
After 10 minutes the vinegar has worked its magic. You have curds and whey!
Fresh ricotta draining in a fine meshed sieve.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the curds to a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth lined sieve. Leave to drain for at least 10 minutes. The longer you leave the ricotta, the firmer it will be.
Fresh ricotta after 20 minutes of straining.
20 minutes later…
Fresh ricotta after a few pulses in a food processor.
*Completely optional step*  You could stop after draining the ricotta and enjoy as is, or for an extra creamy texture, give your freshly strained ricotta a very brief spin in a food processor.
Freshly whipped ricotta
Freshly whipped ricotta
Basil, oregano and thyme sprigs
Snip a few herbs to sprinkle on top of the whipped ricotta. Serve with slices of grilled bread for an easy appetizer or lunch.
Homemade whipped ricotta sprinkled with herbs and served with grilled ciabatta.
Strawberries and Ricotta on Toast
Breakfast the next day…

Maple Nut Granola

Granola in mason jars.

The back to school catalogs began arriving in mid July and straight into the recycling bin they went. Now, more than a month later, I can no longer deny the fast approaching first day of school. The highlighted square on the calendar smugly reminding me that order will return in the form of routines, schedules, homework, and afterschool activities. Fuel is needed for us all, especially first Maple Nut Granola in a cereal bowl.thing in the morning. Enter granola.

Good granola is a tasty mix of humble ingredients barely touched with sweetness. Oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruits- all relatively inexpensive on their own, but for reasons I don’t understand, suddenly become a hot commodity when combined, packaged, and put on your local grocery store shelf. Make your own. You’ll save money, have control over the ingredients, and create something far better than anything you could get from a cardboard box.

This recipe makes a little more than 8 cups and keeps for several weeks in anYogurt parfait with granola and berries. airtight container. My granola goes into mason jars, but tupperware,and ziploc bags work too. I have it every morning with plain yogurt and whatever fruit is in season. My daughter‘s spin is little fancier; she likes to make yogurt parfaits- layering the granola with fruit and yogurt. Keep it simple and put the granola out in the morning as part of a breakfast bar. Each person can enjoy it the way they like best… with milk… with yogurt… with fruit… or even straight up by the handful as they race out the door to catch the school bus.

PS- A batch of homemade granola makes an excellent gift. Think teachers, new moms, care package for college kids…

Maple Nut Granola

  • Servings: approximately 8 cups
  • Print

3 cups rolled old-fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup unsalted raw sunflower seeds
1 cup unsalted raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup unsalted nuts… almonds, walnuts- whatever you want
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¾ cup maple syrup
⅓ cup coconut oil (comes in a jar- solid form)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 ½ cups total of your favorite dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, dried apricots, dried figs, dried apples, dried cherries)- either a combination of fruits or just one

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300°. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and nuts. In a small saucepan melt coconut oil over low heat, add cinnamon, ginger and maple syrup- stirring to combine. Take off the heat and add vanilla and pinch of salt. Pour coconut oil/maple syrup mixture over oat mixture and combine- stirring to be sure everything is evenly coated. Spread onto cookie sheet.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring the granola about every 10 minutes- rotating the cookie sheet once or twice so the granola bakes evenly. The granola is ready when it just begins to turn a light golden color.

Remove from the oven, add dried fruits and stir well. Let cool,
stirring once or twice to break up any clumps.

*This recipe is very easy to play around with. Consider adding different dried fruits, wheat germ, flax seeds, etc.

oats, unsweetened coconut, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
Measure the oats, unsweetened coconut, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds into a bowl. Set aside.
Coconut Oil, Maple Syrup, Cinnamon, Ginger, Vanilla and Salt
Melt the coconut oil over low heat, then add the maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla and salt. Here I played around with the flavors and tossed in a cinnamon stick and cardamom pod for a brief dip. I was sure to remove both before combining the liquid and dry ingredients.
Coconut Oil/Maple Syrup Mixture are poured over the dry granola ingredients.
Pour the coconut oil/maple syrup mixture over the dry ingredients.
Coconut oil/maple syrup mixture and dry ingredients have been combined.
Stir ingredients thoroughly so that everything is evenly coated.
Wet granola ingredients on a cookie sheet, ready for the oven.
The granola is ready to spend 30-40 minutes in a preheated 300° oven. Stir every 10 minutes or so. Bake until lightly golden.
Granola and Dried Fruit
After the granola comes out of the oven add your favorite dried fruits. This batch has dried cherries, raisins, and chopped dried figs.
Granola in mason jars.
Heading to the pantry (and future breakfasts, lunches, yogurts, late night snacks…)

Ice Cream ‘Wiches and Affogatos

Oatmeal Raisin Ice Cream 'Wich with Rainbow Sprinkles

This time of year is absolutely glorious! Lazy, hazy dog days of summer complete with ice cold lemonade, warm sand between your toes, and the echoes of “Marco… Polo” filling the air as you read the latest best seller. Dinners are easier; spontaneous invites for backyard barbeques are extended and accepted. It’s not hard to quickly pull a beautiful simple summer meal together; throw something on the grill and add a delicious salad of farm fresh vegetables on the side. Then your thoughts turn to dessert, but don’t panic! If spontaneity fueled the dinner, time to create a completely from scratch dessert is probably non-existent. Ice cream is a safe bet, cookies as well, but add some sprinkles and now you’ve got a party! Remember chipwiches? Those chocolate chip cookie sandwiches rolled in chocolate chips? Make your own and get the kids (and grownups) involved!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches
Ice Cream ‘Wiches

For this night, I used store bought oatmeal raisin cookies and vanilla ice cream and rolled them in rainbow sprinkles. But don’t stick to that script. The cookie and ice cream combinations are absolutely endless. Choose flavor combinations based on what you like! Here are some ideas to get you started…

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies + Vanilla Ice Cream + Sprinkles
Chocolate Chip Cookies + Vanilla Ice Cream + Sprinkles
Peanut Butter Cookies + Banana Ice Cream + Mini Chocolate Chips
Peanut Butter Cookies + Vanilla Ice Cream + Crushed Candied Peanuts
Molasses Cookies + Cinnamon Ice Cream + Crushed Walnuts
Chocolate Cookies + Coffee Ice Cream + Crushed Hazelnuts
Gingersnap Cookies + Pumpkin Ice Cream + Crushed Pecans

To be honest, more hands-on research is necessary… it’s going to be tough, but I promise to report back after time spent in the field taste testing. Who wants to help??

Another incredibly delicious and easy dessert to make on the fly is an affogato. Literally and figuratively, affogato in Italian means, “drowned.” In this case, a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream is drowned in a shot of espresso. The hot espresso immediately begins melting the gelato, creating the most perfect “coffee ice cream” ever. As I sit typing, I’m already imagining that a dash of Frangelico or Amaretto would be a sophisticated twist. Two (or three) ingredients and you are done! It doesn’t get any easier.

Play around with the flavor combinations of both desserts, and let me know how it goes!

Ice Cream ‘Wiches

  • Servings: 6 sandwiches
  • Print

12 cookies (your favorite- homemade or store bought)
1 container ice cream (your favorite)
sprinkles, crushed nuts, or mini chocolate chips

Soften frozen ice cream at room temperature for approximately 10 minutes. Be sure to check, you don’t want soup, just soft enough to scoop easily and “sandwich” between the cookies.

While ice cream is softening, line a cookie sheet with wax paper and set aside.

Pour sprinkles, crushed nuts, or mini chocolate chips into a wide shallow bowl or container.

When ice cream is soft enough to work with, place a scoop of ice cream onto the flat-bottomed side of a cookie. Top with another cookie, flat-bottomed side down. Press gently together to ensure that ice cream reaches edges of cookie.

Roll the sides of the cookie in the sprinkles, crushed nuts, or mini chocolate chips so that they adhere to the ice cream sides.

Place on cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining cookies and immediately place in the freezer until firm, approximately 30-45 minutes.

*Make ahead- when firm, transfer to a freezer bag, separating the sandwiches with wax paper, or individually wrapping them.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies with Vanilla Ice Cream
Sandwich softened ice cream between two cookies.
Rolling Ice Cream 'Wich in Rainbow Sprinkles
Roll the sides in sprinkles, crushed nuts, mini chocolate chips or whatever suits you.
Ice Cream 'Wiches on Lined Cookie Sheet
Place the ice cream ‘wiches on a lined cookie sheet and immediately place in freezer.
Oatmeal Raisin Ice Cream 'Wich with Rainbow Sprinkles
After firming up in the freezer this ‘wich is ready to enjoy!


  • Servings: 1
  • Print

1 generous scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream
1 shot of freshly brewed espresso or strong hot coffee

Put one generous scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream into a serving dish. Pour hot espresso directly on top. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Espresso and Gelato
Brew a shot of espresso or very strong coffee. While your espresso is brewing, place a generous scoop of vanilla gelato or ice-cream in a serving dish.
Pour the freshly brewed espresso on top of the gelato. Serve immediately.
Buon Appetito!