Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Homemade ricotta and my super-secret family recipe New York cheesecake

The world's greatest cheesecake, I swear to god
I love cheese.

No, I mean I really love cheese.

As in, I always forgo dessert when we dine out if there's a cheeseplate on either the dessert or appetizer menu.

So imagine my excitement when the April topic for the Grow It Cook It Can It Cook It! 2012 challenge turned out to be fresh cheese. Yay! (I've really been enjoying that we're tackling some real cooking staples as part of this challenge, as opposed to getting all elaborate and complicated.)

As Caroline did, I decided to stick with fresh ricotta. I have made mozzarella in the past but the idea of making cheese in 10 minutes using only three ingredients was just too tempting.

Seriously. Ten minutes, three ingredients.

This was so easy there barely needs to be a recipe, so I'll just show you the steps (and I apologize in advance for the not-so-great step photos).

Step 1: Assemble the ingredients -- 1/2 gallon whole milk, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt. (Yep, that's all.)

Sorry, I left the salt out of the picture

Step 2: Heat the milk and salt to 180 degrees (use any kind of beverage or instant-read thermometer). This step only took a few minutes. You'll know you're close when the milk just starts to simmer.

Heat the milk to 180 degrees

Step 3: When the milk hits 180 degrees, add the vinegar and stir for another minute or two. The milk will begin to separate into curds and whey right before your eyes, Miss Muffet!

Slightly out of focus, but I think you can see the curds forming

Step 4: Pour the mixture into a colander lined with a few layers of cheesecloth and let drain (I let mine drain about 8 minutes or so, and it was pretty firm -- if you want it to be more spreadable, drain it a few minutes less, I'd say).

It will still look runny when you first begin to drain it

This is fully drained (about 8 minutes and pressed with the back of a spoon)

Step 5: Scrape the cheese (about 1 1/2 - 2 cups worth) off the cheesecloth.

VOILA! You just made ricotta!

If you're just going to eat it on toast, I'd add a little salt at this point

Regular readers will remember that part of the challenge is not only to make the staple ingredient but also to use it in a recipe.

This is where I had a bit of a moral crisis.

(Over freakin' cheese? you may be thinking. Yes, sort of. Read on.)

Last week, I was telling my mother-in-law that the next challenge topic was cheese and that I was going to make ricotta but was still trying to decide what recipe to use to accompany it. She said, "I think there's a ricotta cheesecake you can make, but I don't have a recipe for it."

Um. Well, I do.

Well, actually, my mom does. For perhaps the greatest cheesecake on the planet. The cheesecake by which I compare all other cheesecakes. Trust me, I don't eat any other cheesecake anymore other than this one because none of them can compare.

Seriously. It's that good. (For criminey's sake, you can tell --  just look at it up there!!!)

So good, in fact, that I have never shared the recipe. I'm pretty protective of it. Selfish, even. Probably because it's my go-to ooh aah dessert. You know the one: you bring it to a party and everyone oohs and aahs. It's my secret weapon dish, the one that only I (well, and my mom) know how to make.

Until now.

I realized that it's silly and more than a little insecure of me to hoard this recipe. I mean, it's really not a secret family recipe. It came from some magazine in the 1970s (you know it's a 70s recipe because it calls for -- and my mom always added -- thick canned cherry pie filling as the topping. Shudder.). But my dad loved it. And if my dad loved it, it was a keeper.

So (and here I take a very deep breath), I'm officially crossing the line over into adulthood (as a 40-something) and sharing this recipe with you.

That's how much I love this blog, people.

Trust me, you will like it. Scratch that: you will love it. It will ruin all other cheesecakes for you. It is thick and creamy and not-too-sweet and doesn't waste your time with any kind of crust. It's just cheese, cheese and cheese, oh yeah, with a side of cheese.

I mean, it's called CHEESE CAKE for a reason, right?

The top always looks unlovely and sometimes cracks but don't worry about either

But I'm telling you right now that if you invite me over for dinner and serve this cheesecake in my presence, I may mash it in your face. Because technically it will always be mine.

Well, my mom's.

I've linked up this recipe at Momnivore's Dilemma Creative Juice Thursday and The Sweet Spot's Recipe Party
Super-Secret Ninja Family Recipe New York Cheesecake
(credit me or I will hunt you down, I swear it)

Note: The quantities below are for a 5-inch springform pan, because there's just me and Mr. Ninj. If you want to make the cake for a family or a dinner party, just double all the ingredients and cook it in a 10-inch springform pan.

1 cup ricotta cheese, at room temperature (you, my friend, are all set because you just made your own!)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sour cream

(Oh man, it is so hard for me to put this out there for the world to see...)

Blend ricotta and cream cheese well, then blend in the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla, lemon juice, cornstarch, flour and melted butter and beat to combine. Fold in the sour cream and blend well.

Pour the mixture into a buttered springform pan. Place the pan IN A COLD OVEN and then turn the oven on to 325 degrees (Isn't this cool? No preheating!). Bake the cake for one hour. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR. (Yes, this is in ALL CAPS and underlined on the recipe card my mom made for me.) After one hour, turn off the oven and leave the cake until cool, at least 2 more hours (leaving it in the oven overnight is fine as well).

Remove the sides of the springform pan and garnish the cake with fresh fruit -- or, frankly, with not a damned thing at all. It's that good.


  1. I've been wanting to make my own ricotta for a while and you make it look easy! The cheesecake looks FABULOUS too! I like your way with fresh fruit vs. canned cherry pie filling much better. :)

  2. Seriously, the ricotta is absurdly easy to make. And actually, Kiersten, when I was a kid, I didn't like the cheesecake as much as I do now because of that pie filling -- I used to scrape it off. :-)

  3. This looks amazing and I love making my own ricotta. I will definitely make this over the weekend. Have you actually made the 10 inch version, because a 10 inch pan holds 4 times the volume of a 5 inch pan? It seems it would only be half as tall if you double the recipe and the height is part of its beauty.

  4. Tim: I used to make the 10-inch version all the time with double the ingredients shown and exactly the same cooking instructions (that's how the original recipe was presented, for a 10-inch pan). It's not quite as tall but still tastes exactly the same. Please let me know how it goes with the ricotta!

  5. Does the ricotta need salt if it's going directly into the SSNFRNYCC?

  6. Jennifer: you need to add the salt to the milk to create the ricotta, but there's no need to add any additional if you're making the cheesecake. If you're not making the cake and just spreading the ricotta on toast or something, I think it could use some salt to bring out the flavor, that's all.

  7. oh.my.god. You have betrayed the family!

  8. I was waiting for that one. I'm LEARNING TO SHARE!!!! Encourage my growth! :-)

  9. Ah-haa....read too quickly in my eagerness to get to the CHEESECAKE!!!

  10. this looks so delicious!! in fact, everything I have seen so far on your blog looks sooo good! thanks for your lovely comment on my housedress, got me to visit you. i love your blog and am following you now with gfc, would be honored if you would like to follow back, but no hard feelings if not :-)

  11. omg...you made me so excited! been wanting to make my own cheese to impress my kiddos aka "piggery"...and with your mom's best cheese cake recipe in the world --wow I can't wait to get started tomorrow and try it...Thanks for your generosity Kitchen Ninja <3

  12. Ok, so I only have enough ingredients for the 5" pan but I only have a 10" pan. Would the cooking instructions remain the same?Thanks, Mary

  13. Mary, I would NOT recommend it. The original recipe is for a 10-inch pan but with DOUBLE the ingredients. I'm afraid half the ingredients in a 10-inch pan would be disastrous. :-(

  14. Too late! Haha! It wasn't disastrous but I will definitely do it right next time. Is there any good use for the leftover liquid after making the ricotta?
    Thanks, Mary

  15. Well, I'm glad it wasn't awful, Mary. The leftover liquid is actually the whey and you can make lots of stuff from it (including lactofermentation) -- google it and see if anything strikes your fancy!

  16. the most memorable cheesecake I have ever had was as a kid. NY style and no silly graham cracker crust. Now it is so hard to find. I can't wait to try this.

  17. I love that this has no graham cracker crust. I might try to add a thin layer of sour cream (lightly sweetened?) on top that I remember as a kid.

  18. Hi, Sorry, I'm stopping over from Punk Domestics!!
    Have a nice day!

  19. can i use yoghurt or cream instead of sour cream cos we dont have sour cream where i live and if we could find any it is very expensive?

  20. Looks sooo awesome....Thanks for sharing this recipe!!!

  21. I have followed your recipe carefully. It is in the oven. Can hardly wait!

  22. This needs to rest in thr fridge for over 24 hours for the full flavor to come out! At least mine did. At first, I was disappointed but it is now a delicious cheesecake!! I dont think I beat it enough. The curds (from the home made ricotta)are detectable---but that is adding to its appeal for me.
    Thank you for the recipe.

  23. I am back. Going to make this again for my Super Bowl party guests. It is so rich, a little goes a long way! And, this time, I will beat it more.

  24. OMG 32nd bithday cake IS RIGHT HERE. I am making my own birthday cake and this is IT
    thank you !!!

    1. WHOOT! Go, Christa, it's your birthday... ! Please come back and let me know what you think of it.

  25. A proper cheesecake ... you make my heart sing!

  26. At which point when making the ricotta do we add the 1 teaspoon of salt? Is it at the point when we heat the milk? Or after the vinegar is added? Sorry I couldn't find that info and don't want to mess up.
    And thank you so much for sharing this recipe.

    1. Ah, nice catch -- my bad. You add it to the milk in Step 2. I've updated the directions. Good luck and let me know how it goes for you!

  27. My BEST friends birthday is january 16. I remembered my mother making a cheesecake with ricotta as a child. I have searched for over 2hours for a comparable cheesecake. Then the cheesecake gods blessed me with your recipe. I have one question. Since i am going to double the recipe. What are the oven requirements? Both zoey and i are excited to try your secret family recipe. I promise to gaurd this recipe with my life. And i will make her pinkyswear not to give recipe to anyone

    1. You are SO in luck! I double this recipe ALL THE TIME with great success. The cooking times/temp remain exactly the same as written, just use a 10-inch spring form pan. I'm so glad you found the recipe -- let me know how it turns out. ENJOY!!!!

  28. Wanted to let you know I've made your recipe twice now and it really is the best cheesecake I have ever had! Everyone loves it. Great job and thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Awesome! Thanks for that lovely feedback -- it really is the BEST cheesecake ever!!!