Ricotta is generally believed to have originated in Sicily. Historians speculate that this type of cheese first appears in documents by the Greek author Athenaeus, who wrote a great deal about food in the second and third centuries.
Cheese was historically a large export product for Sicily, along with grain. It was also a main part of their diet and was usually made from goat’s or sheep’s milk. Many desserts featuring ricotta originated in Sicily. Ricotta pancake cassola, for instance, is an ancient version of cheesecake.
Ricotta was also a traditional food for Sicilian Christians. The cassata cake, with ricotta cream filling, was considered a traditional Easter food. Another ricotta pastry, the Zeppole, was traditional fare for St. Joseph’s Day.
Ricotta cheese is a creamy byproduct of the cheese manufacturing process and is technically not really a cheese. Traditionally it is created from whey, a watery substance left over from the milk, which is drained off when provolone or mozzarella cheese is made. Because the product is cooked twice, once during the original process and then again to make the ricotta, the food was given its name from the Latin “recocta,” meaning re-cooked.
Here is my third easily homemade cheese recipe and last, all I know how to do without a cheese press, maybe someday . If you missed the first two homemade cheese recipes, you can find them here; mascarpone and mozzarella.
If you make a lot of mozzarella at home, you can make the traditional ricotta if you have enough whey saved from the process. If not, here is an alternative way to make ricotta at home.
Ingredients1 gallon whole milk (if for a dessert, use 2 quarts of whole milk not a gallon and add 1 pint of half & half to the milk) 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar 1/4 teaspoon salt 6 quart stainless-steel saucepan & slotted spoon Cheesecloth
1. Pour milk in to the stainless-steel saucepan, add the salt, stir and slowly bring to a full boil.
2. Remove from heat, add the vinegar and stir until the mixture has separated into thick curds and a clear liquid, the whey.
3. Cover with a clean dish towel and let drain for a couple of hours.
4. Line your strainer with dampened cheesecloth and place over a large deep bowl.
5. Using your slotted spoon, remove the curds from the pot and place in your strainer.
6. Let drain for another10 minutes.
7. Remove the ricotta and place into a bowl.
8. It is now ready to use, or it can be covered and refrigerated for about a week.
Yield: about 4 cups.