August 15, 2014 at 1:00 am

Living

Ricotta easy to make at home, a delight to serve

If you prefer a denser texture, hang the ricotta to force out more liquid. )

Its a revelation to think you can make ricotta at home simply by cooking milk and cream, adding a little lemon juice and letting the result drain in cheesecloth. From pot to plate, it takes under one hour to achieve remarkable flavor and freshness.

Fresh ricotta may be an uncomplicated cheese, but its far from plain. Serve a fluffy mound of it (instead of butter) with bread, or add it to a bowl of pasta. And combined with honey and figs, it yields an all-in-one fruit-and-cheese plate. Brilliant.

Discover more ways to cook with ricotta at marthastewart.com/ricotta.

Fresh Ricotta

Fresh ricotta is best the day its made, but can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to four days. Dont waste the protein-rich whey that drains out of the ricotta curds. Freeze it in ice-cube trays and use in smoothies, or simply enjoy it as is, poured over ice.

8 cups ( gallon) best-quality whole milk
1 cups best-quality heavy cream
1 teaspoon coarse salt
cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons), strained to remove pulp

Combine milk, cream and salt in a 4- to 5-quart pot, and warm mixture over medium-high heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent scorching, until mixture registers 195 F on a candy thermometer. It should take about 15 minutes.

Add lemon juice, gently stirring until just combined. Remove pot from heat and let stand 5 minutes. The combination of the acid and the residual heat in the mixture will cause it to coagulate, or curdle separating into a soft mass (curds) and a cloudy liquid (whey).

After lining a mesh colander with a triple layer of cheesecloth and placing it inside a deeper, slightly larger bowl, gently pour curds and whey into colander. Let mixture stand, pouring off whey occasionally, until most of whey has drained from still-wet curds, 20 minutes.

Gather up ricotta in cheesecloth and turn it out into a bowl. Serve within a few hours, or refrigerate up to 4 days. For a denser ricotta, which can be preferable for baking, hang it to drain for another hour. Repurpose whey (see note, above) or discard it. Makes 2 cups.

Broiled Apricots With Fresh Ricotta and Pistachios

1 tablespoon sugar
4 apricots, halved and pitted
8 teaspoons fresh ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios

Preheat broiler. Place sugar in a small saucer. Dip cut side of apricots in sugar to coat and transfer to a small broiler-proof baking dish. Broil, rotating once, until apricots are caramelized and juicy, 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove apricots from oven. Let cool slightly and top with ricotta and pistachios. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Questions should be sent to Martha Stewart Living, 11 W. 42nd St., New York, NY 10036. You may also email questions to mslletters@marthastewart.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.