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Homemade ricotta? Really?

That smooth, beautiful layer of yum in lasagna?

Yes, dear students, it’s possible. And it’s as easy as kindergarten. The Damsel suspects you have everything you need, at this moment, in your kitchen. You could be five minutes away from ravishing ricotta. (Technically, this is called paneer. Ricotta is properly made from whey instead of milk. But it tastes the same to the Damsel.)

At the Old School, the Damsel likes to teach things they used to know by heart in the olden days, and put a new twist on them when she can. Hence the name “New Old School.” So today, she’ll teach you how to make ricotta cheese, an old skill indeed…but with a microwave.

First, set a colander over a dish. It needn’t be big. Line it with two layers of cheesecloth or paper towel.

Measure 2 cups of milk (the higher the fat content, the higher your yield) into a glass bowl or other microwavable vessel.

Add two tablespoons of plain white vinegar, or, in other words, one tablespoon per cup of milk. (This is the same thing you do when you need to “make” buttermilk in an emergency.) Add some salt if you like…the Damsel added 1/4 tsp.

Microwave this for 2-4 minutes, or until you see it start to bubble around the edges.

Stir gently. The milk should separate into solids vs. translucent liquid. Microwave another 30 seconds if needed and check again. The Damsel thought something was busted, because there was only a small amount of solids. But this is normal–the reason for the small yield was she used 1% milk.

Scoop the solids into the colander and let it drain until it reaches the desired consistency. Only a few minutes is usually necessary.

The resulting cheese is soft and sort of like cream cheese, but less firm. You’ll end up with anywhere between 2 tablespoons and 1/2 cup of cheese.

The Damsel loved its fresh taste. There was no hope of lasagna, so she spread it on a bit of crusty bread and thought it was delicioso. You can add herbs, which would be quite lovely. Or go sweet, with honey and fruit.

The Damsel remembers crying to Grandma one day as a newlywed, because a precious gallon of milk had gone sour. Grandma heated it on the stove until it separated, just like this. She may or may not have added more sourness with extra vinegar–the memory isn’t too clear. She drained it well, till the curds were a bit firm. To this she added salt and a bit of cream, and called it cottage cheese. Whether or not it should be called cottage cheese, or ricotta, or paneer, it’s a brilliant idea…a way to use up and not waste.

Speaking of that, the leftover liquid could be used for a baking project that calls for water or milk, adding nutrition.

Thanks, Kenji, for the microwave method.

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  • ok now I’m annoyed.  My son and I were trying to make Alfredo sauce a couple of days ago and found that my whipping cream had started to go bad.  It was thick and starting to not smell quite right.  We could have made CHEESE out of it!!! but we didn’t know, so we threw away almost a cup of expensive whipping cream…wish I’d read this sooner!

    I love your blog and all the great ideas.  I live this way whenever possible!

    • Anonymous

      dang it! If you do try it later, please let me know how it goes.

  • Calicocat2

    WOW!  So simple…who knew?

    • Anonymous

      let me know if you try it!

  • Have I told you lately that I love you?  Honestly,  I will never throw out sour milk again!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Rachel! Fun idea, huh? Let me know if you try it. I want to try it with goat’s milk…I just had some soft goat’s milk cheese and I wonder if this is all it takes. Delish!

  • Anonymous

    Wow, you are amazing!!  I am going to try this one.  Occasionally we end up with sour milk.  I use it, waste not want not, but this would be a much better way of using it up.  

    • Anonymous

      The only thing about it is the small yield vs. quantity of milky liquid that is left over. If you can then throw that in a batch of bread, then you’re golden.

  • Anonymous

    Do you have a non-microwave version you like that you can direct me to?  We got rid of our microwave eons ago.  Or, do I just follow the same steps only doing it on the stovetop?  I  really like this idea of making my own cheese.

    • Anonymous

      It’s almost as easy on the stovetop. Same ingredients…just heat the milk/vinegar slowly while stirring. Don’t let it scorch or boil. As soon as it starts simmering around the edges, it should be done. Cook a little longer if it doesn’t look like the cheese has separated from the liquid, but keep in mind it will be a small amount.

      They say the worst part about it, on the stovetop, is cleaning the pan that will have a milk-gunk stuck to the bottom.

  • Rockymento

    I love it! Do you think we cuod learn how to make fresh mozzarella? I have a friend who moved to china who told me she would show me how…never did:(. Just wondering maestra damsel?

    • Anonymous

      I’ve got that planned. That would be So. Great.

  • I know I’m going to sound like the hippy wierdo, but I’m wondering if the same technique could be used for human breastmilk. It only lasts so long and it makes me cry to throw it out. I know the baby loves cheese and it would be an awesome way to not waste it. 

    • Anonymous

      I’d cry too. That stuff’s too precious. Why not try it and find out?

    • Lizzie

      Freeze it! I froze mine successfully for months as necessary. Pour into the plastic bags used for bottles and date with a sharpie. Place in a cup of warm water to thaw (do NOT microwave).

    • Kristacasper

      Another hippy in to respond- donate it!!! There are so, so many moms who have babies that need breastmilk (often not doing well on formula) that are looking for another mom’s donation. If frozen in breastmilk bags, it can last up to 1 year in a deep freezer. Check out Eats on Feets or Human Milk 4 Human Babies (listings by state) on Facebook!

      • Anonymous

        The best alternative!
        Margot (The Damsel)

  • Kris Adair

    Yum. I will have to try this with Audrey.

  • Cool idea. I’ve made yogurt cheese before but never thought about starting from milk.

  • Amy Liles

    I bookmarked this and really want to try it!!!  I’m guessing it tastes so much better than what I buy in the store!

    • Anonymous

      I thought it tasted wonderful. I can’t wait to try it with whole milk, since the 1% gave such a small amount.

  • Wow, you make that sound easy enough that I could even do it! Thank you – stumbled!

    • Anonymous

      I have discovered that THIS is The Damsel’s power!

      • Anonymous

        lol! You’re nice.

    • Anonymous

      Try it! It’s just as easy as it seems.

  • Kristl Story

    So, if it’s technically paneer…I guess I could make some yummy Indian food without a trip to the indo grocery!

    • Anonymous

      Indian food is always the right thing to do! 🙂

  • Kgm3boys

    I use the milk to make mozza first (also in the microwave) then I use it to make ricotta with the leftovers.  Never thought to go straight to the ricotta!  🙂  Thanks for the guide.

    • Anonymous

      I’d love to know how to do the mozza. Do you have a link?

  • Darlene Burgess

    I tried accessing this through your pinterest pin and the link isn’t working. Just thought you’d want to know.

    Good idea. I’m going to try this with some excess kefir I have. I’ll bet it works just fine!

    • Anonymous


      Thanks for taking the time to let me know. When I tried it just now, it seemed to work ok. Please do let me know if you have any more trouble. I really appreciate it.
      Margot (The Damsel)