Until very recently, I’d lived my life without regrets. Then I made ricotta cheese at home for the first time.

Until very recently, I’d lived my life without regrets. Then I made ricotta cheese at home for the first time.

As soon as I tasted the warm, creamy, sweet curds right from the colander where they were draining, I instantly regretted not having made my own ricotta 20 years ago.

Now, I plan to run to the supermarket to buy two litres of milk so I can begin to make up for lost time.

There are no other cooking projects I can think of that require so little effort and produce such a satisfying payoff.

Making ricotta takes five minutes of hands-on cooking time and four ingredients, including salt.

The result can be compared with store-bought ricotta cheese in the same way I would compare a warm-from-the-oven homemade chocolate-chip biscuit with one from a vending machine. That is to say, there is no comparison.

After tasting it, my 12-year-old marvelled that it “tastes like ice cream, without the sugar”. Imagine how such an item could enhance some of your favourite dishes.

Ricotta cheese isn’t actually cheese. Mass-produced ricotta is made by adding acid to whey, the liquid that remains after milk has been curdled and strained during the process of making real cheese.

Adequate draining is the key to a thick, creamy ricotta with concentrated flavour. Ricotta cheese produced in a factory is drained quickly (time is money) and then thickened with gums and stabilisers, explaining its rubbery texture and artificial flavour.

Homemade ricotta (like some artisanal ricottas increasingly available at fine cheese shops and specialty foods shops) relies solely on proper draining to achieve a thickened consistency. Don’t worry about locating whey before starting. Home cooks can use whole milk supplemented with heavy cream in its place.

To enjoy its dairy-fresh flavour, eat your ricotta within a day of making it. Here are just a few suggestions for how to do so.

Bruschetta

Spread on top of toasted or grilled bread that’s been brushed with olive oil and rubbed with a clove of garlic.

Breakfast

Spread on top of toasted bread that’s been coated with a thin layer of marmalade or jam.

Eggs

Fold into softly scrambled eggs and sprinkle with chopped chives.

Pasta

Scoop a spoonful on top of a bowl of pasta tossed with cubes of roasted butternut squash, zucchini or eggplant, olive oil and herbs. Or scoop a spoonful on top of a bowl of spaghetti dressed with pesto.

Vegies

Spoon some into freshly roasted and seeded red capsicums, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

Click here for an easy home-made ricotta recipe.

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