For dinner, I made Dog Mountain Farm duck yolk ravioli with seasoned homemade ricotta. It was great but this post isn’t about duck eggs or fresh pasta this is about the ricotta, which is one of those amazingly simple yet sublime things to cook.

The recipe I use when I make ricotta is from Gourmet magazine (rest in peace) but don’t let that deter you, it really is easy. I halved the amounts given since I live by myself and the cheese is only good for a few days in the fridge — all told, I ended up with a cup or so of fresh ricotta. I used:

  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice (about half a lemon, make sure to pick out the seeds)

The first thing you want to do is line a colander with some cheesecloth then put the colander over a bowl — this is good preparation and important because things happen quickly once you start. Now, bring the whole milk, cream and salt to a full boil on about medium high and make sure to stir regularly with a spatula to keep the milk from scorching. Once it’s boiling, add the lemon juice and give the mixture a quick stir to incorporate the juice then turn the heat down to medium to maintain a simmer. Stir gently for another two minutes, you’ll see the mixture start to separate into solid milk curds and liquid whey. After it looks like everything has separated, pour the mixture into your cheesecloth lined colander. You can let it drain like this for an hour or so, I like to tie the cheesecloth up and hang it over my sink to let gravity help extract any lingering whey.

And you just made cheese. Nice! But why? Why bother, even with something so simple, when tubs of ricotta are in the same aisle you get the whole milk and cream from? Because store bought ricotta is grainy, flavorless and usually full of preservatives whereas homemade it’s fresh and subtle, amazing on a salty cracker with a little honey. Or as a nest for a duck yolk ravioli.

Speaking of which, my ravioli were excellent on some fresh salad greens with a few roasted beets leftover from Sunday dinner. I first encountered yolk ravioli over at Michael Ruhlman’s blog — for mine, I mixed about a third of a cup of ricotta with some minced leek, meyer lemon rind, black pepper and a little olive oil. I boiled the sealed ravioli in a big pot of sea-salty water for not-quite-three minutes. The whole thing contrasted pretty nicely against a German Schlenkerla Maerzen Smokebeer.