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June 18, 2019

When Life Gives You Spoiled Milk, Make Ricotta

If you know me, like, at all, you know I will cry over spilled milk. Or spoiled milk. Or any milk I paid for and didn’t get to use. Because food waste is a tragedy.

But when you’re a parent in America, it seems like you should have milk in the fridge. (Yes, even though the benefits of all this dairy we consume are debatable.) My problem is our kids don’t really drink all that much milk, and none of us are big bakers. We rarely finish even the smallest container of milk quickly enough to save it from spoiling.

But guess what. Spoiled milk is an excellent start to delicious homemade ricotta. The first time I made it, I added it to my usual lasagna. The fam noticed, and thought I’d bought some expensive ricotta. It tasted fresher, and the hint of citrus made one of our favorite dishes even better. Since then, I’ve tossed it into salads, used it for eggplant Parmesan, added it to omelets, and stirred it into any number of pasta dishes.

And it’s so easy. The original method was on The Kitchn, but now I know it by heart. (Yeah, we spoil a lot of milk.) By the way, this should go without saying, but go ahead and make homemade ricotta within a day or two of the “best by” date on the milk. No need to prove anything by waiting a week.

Save the Milk and Make Homemade Ricotta

  1. Pour (almost or recently) spoiled milk into a pot and warm over medium heat. Turn off the heat when it starts to steam and get tiny bubbles around the edges.
  2. Add 1/3 cup of lemon juice (or vinegar) for every 1/2 gallon of milk. (Did someone drink one or two bowls of cereal’s worth of milk? Use a little less lemon juice.)
  3. Stir in a little salt if you like, seasoning salt if you want to make it special. Seasonello is a great addition.
  4. Let it sit there for about ten minutes, until it looks kind of chunky. (Yuck, I know. But I swear it’s going to be delicious soon.)
  5. Put a dish in the sink to catch the liquid, put a strainer with cheesecloth (skip the cheesecloth if you have a fine mesh strainer) over that, and strain the curds.
  6. Now leave and go run a short errand, take care of a quick task (like getting the Goodwill bag together, which I need to do right now), or walk the dog while the ricotta continues to strain. It doesn’t really matter how long you leave it, because the dish at the bottom catches the whey, so you can stir some of that back in if you want wetter cheese.

You can use it right away, but if you’re planning on baking it into lasagna or another dish, you can freeze it for later. Sure, homemade ricotta takes a few minutes to make, but it saves you money and the time it takes to go to the store.

If you have noodles, a couple cans of tomatoes (to make your own sauce), some vegetables or ground meat, and a container of recently spoiled milk, you’re well on your way to a super simple lasagna. Isn’t that more fun than a trip to the grocery store in the rain? I think so.

Not in the mood for a heavy pasta dish? Toss it with chopped lettuce and a handful of toasted pine nuts or almonds, drizzle with olive oil and vinegar, and call it dinner. Buon appetito!

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