How to make Sicilian ricotta cheese

If you’ve ever been to Sicily, you’ve probably been mesmerized by it’s natural beauty, hospitality of people and incredible food (and if you haven’t, then you’ve probably been in the wrong place).

From fresh fish to hearty meat dishes, to soul sweetening desserts, Sicily is a food lovers dream. Of all the places I’ve visited, I have most vivid memories of Sicilian dishes, many of which I’m continuously trying to recreate.

A key to so many Sicilian dishes is ricotta, very light and creamy whey cheese. In case you’re not familiar, whey is the liquid that separates from milk after curdling, when acid is added. Translating from Italian ricotta literally means re-cooked as it has to reach near boiling temperature for the acid to be added for curdling.

In Sicily (and the rest of Italy) ricotta can be found in every single course: light crostini’s, pasta and vegetable dishes and pastries like cannoli, cassatelle fritte (fried sweet ravioli) and of course traditional Sicilian cake – cassata.

Though these treats are not that complicated to make at home, if you’ve ever tried making them with store bought ricotta you know that they are nothing like the ones that can be savored in Sicily. They lack the essential creaminess and lightness, because Sicilian ricotta is mostly made using sheep milk, which is creamier than cow’s milk, hence the resulting ricotta is rather different too. Then there is a difference between store bought and home made ricotta. Sicilian markets are cramped with stands of fresh ricotta, ready for use in various dishes, and though the idea of home cheese making may sound intimidating it’s one of the easiest things you can actually do.

A lot of ricotta recipes using cow’s milk suggest adding cream, to compensate for lack of creaminess in the milk itself, but in the end it’s just not the same. Sheep’s milk isn’t so difficult to find nowadays, most bio shops will have some or will be able to order on demand, but if you can’t find any you can also make it with cow’s milk.

The actual ricotta making process is ridiculously easy.

It takes barely a few minutes of active work, simply adding lemon juice or vinegar to milk coming close to boil and your work is done. After  30 minutes of waiting for curdles to form and set, and draining you’ll have fresh homemade Sicilian ricotta that can be used in so many dishes.

Fresh and warm it’s  so good on it’s own, that only a humble piece of bread is needed, but  as it is the season of radishes, it would be a pity not to use them in some way.

Did you know that roasting radishes changes their texture and taste?

The bitterness mellows, bringing out a more delicate flavor, but retaining their crunch, a perfect pairing with creamy homemade  ricotta.

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Fresh Sicilian ricotta
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Fresh homemade Sicilian ricotta
Cuisine: Italian, Sicilian
Serves: 2
  • 1 litre/4 cups sheep’s milk
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Place a pot with sheep’s milk onto low-medium heat, add salt and give a quick stir to dissolve.
  2. Bring the milk to nearly simmering point, if you have a thermometer it will measure around 180F/80C.
  3. Take of the heat, pour in lemon juice and stir for 10 – 15 seconds. You’ll see curds appearing immediately.
  4. Cover the pot with a clean towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Place a muslin/cheese cloth over colander pour cheese into it. Let it drain for a few minutes and your ricotta is ready. This will make around 300 grams of ricotta.
Makes around 300 grams ricotta

5.0 from 1 reviews
Roasted radishes with fresh ricotta
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Serves: 2
  • 1 bunch medium radishes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • ½ - 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • fresh oregano
  • 300 grams fresh ricotta
  • Bread to serve
  1. Heat the oven to 230C/450F.
  2. Wash, trim and cut the radishes in halt.
  3. Place them on a baking tray, pour over the oil and rub with your fingers to be sure they are fully coated. Sprinkle with sea salt and roast for about 15 minutes.
  4. Once out of the over, pour over lemon juice.
  5. Divide ricotta between 2 bowls, top with roasted radishes, fresh oregano. Finish off with a little extra virgin olive oil and black pepper. Serve with bread and enjoy!

21 thoughts on “How to make Sicilian ricotta cheese

  1. Beautiful spring dish! It’s a bit similar to what I have been prepared with Polish/Russian curd cheese, but I always add chives and yogurt/kefir. (Actually I have had it today for breakfast!). Your method is almost exactly the same I follow when making curd cheese at home (when I have only pasteurised milk because lemon is not necessary with raw milk). Yet, ricotta (at least the commercial one) has for me a completely different taste from curd cheese. Therefore, I have always assumed they are produced in a different way.

    • I though about making curd cheese at home as well, because basically it is the same thing, I guess the only thing that differs in the end is perhaps the milk used?

    • I’d love to add a few more hours to the current 24 in a day, would make things so so much easier. I’m yet to attempt to make feta, but I guess homemade one, is incomparably better than store bought.

  2. Ok, I admit it, I’m Italian and I’ve never been to Sicily… sadly!
    I love Sicilian cuisine and culture, though, and I’d love to make my ricotta at home.
    I’ll definitely try your method, especially using sheep’s milk, ’cause I love ricotta-based dessert, Sicilian or not :)

    • Ok, you absolutely must go to Sicily, it’s come very highly recommended (been there 4 times already), I’m still dreaming of the food…

  3. I have roasted radishes and made ricotta (though not with sheep’s milk), the two have not yet met in the same dish. Lovely presentation, cream, fresh, and simple. I already know that I love other cheese made with sheep’s milk, so now I am on a mission to find it to make my next batch of ricotta.

  4. Ricotta is indeed so easy to make and so much better than store bought. And I really like this recipe with the roasted radishes and the olive oil, so fresh and flavorful. Now I want to go to Sicily.

    • I can’t recommend enough to choose Sicily for holiday (and no I’m not working for any travel agencies :)

  5. Oh….I want to travel to Sicily right the way. What have I been missing out!?! I’ve got to try your ricotta recipe and roast some radishes. Never roast them before, but I think milder flavor would be nice with the ricotta. :)

    • Hi Amy, yes roasting radishes makes them milder and with sheep’s ricotta it’s a dangerously addictive dish :)

  6. I make ricotta with fresh cow’s milk from a neighbor – no sheep in the neighborhood, I’m afraid! I love it made that way though – but any homemade is going to be so much better than what you can buy at the store. Lovely photos – they make it all look so tempting!

    • Thank you Donalyn, I envy your fresh milk supply! Used to have it as well when I lived in Lithuania, but not quite possible in the middle of the town now…

  7. i really really need to try making homemade ricotta – and i’m loving that you paired it with roasted radishes, i just adore roasted radishes!!

  8. That looks beautiful Gourmantine – lovely presentation! I made some feta cheese last year and it was so much fun! Didn’t try making ricotta yet. Would love to go to Sicily too – the photos I see of the area are incredible!

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