Making Ricotta Cheese: A Fun, Delicious Experiment for Kids

April 05, 2016

Last year National Dairy Council hosted a cheese-making demonstration by cheese experts at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research that inspired me to try it myself at home. The ricotta cheese they demonstrated looked easy to make, especially since many of the ingredients and equipment needed were already in my kitchen or obtained easily.

So when my daughter asked my husband and me to watch the grandkids over the weekend, I jumped at the chance to make ricotta cheese with them. My granddaughter, Samantha (age 11), a budding chef, was my enthusiastic assistant as we made ricotta cheese together for the first time. 

The recipe called for a gallon of whole milk, heavy cream, vinegar and salt. Some recipes use lemon juice instead of vinegar or buttermilk instead of cream – depending on the taste desired and how you want to use the finished ricotta cheese. Lower fat milk can also be used. 

First we poured the gallon of milk into the pot. 

Then we added the heavy cream and salt.

We heated the milk, cream and salt slowly.

We waited for the milk to reach 200 degrees.

We removed the milk from the heat and slowly added the vinegar.

While we let the mixture sit, we prepared the strainer.

We ladled the curds into the strainer.

And let the ricotta drain for a while.

Run through the slideshow to learn more about our process. 

The finished ricotta cheese is soft, creamy and off-white, with a light texture and mild, slightly sweet flavor. It is used in a wide variety of dishes but mostly known for being a mainstay of Italian favorites like Lasagna. Since it is made from milk, ricotta cheese has many of milk’s nutrients, including calcium, phosphorus, and protein. For example, ½ cup of whole milk ricotta cheese contains 257 mg of calcium, 14 g of protein, and 216 calories.

Since the next day was Valentine’s Day, we decided to make Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce for breakfast. The pancakes with ricotta were incredibly light and fluffy.  They were also bursting with lemon flavor and the fresh blueberry sauce topping gave them just the right amount of sweetness. My grandsons gave them an A+!

Working with kids in the kitchen can be rewarding and fun for everyone. It inspires an appreciation of good food, with all its color, flavor and texture. It also fosters cooperation and teamwork, enhances math/measuring skills and even teaches the responsibility of cleaning up.

And whether you make your own ricotta cheese or purchase it, here are some other recipes you may want to try on your own or with young helpers. Bon appétit!

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