Ricotta is a very simple cheese to make that requires a little bit of heat and acidity to separate the curd. It’s common practice to add a splash of vinegar to achieve the necessary acidity however with a little more patience this can be done by just allowing the milk to ripen on its own.
Choose an unhomogenized milk, often in stores as “cream-top.” The process of homogenization is meant to destroy milk’s natural separating qualities which in turn hampers its curd quality. Leave the milk out to being souring. A starter of some sort is a great idea with pasturized milk and can ensure a more welcoming and interesting flavor. Anything from leftover buttermilk from a cultured buttermilk process or kefir would work great.
It’s a little intuitive at this point, but depending on weather should take a day or two or three. (The milk pictured above went a little long and while worked great, had a more pungent flavor.) As the lactic acid bacteria feed they will create a natural acidity. With a good soured milk all that needs done is to heat it up slowly to just about a boil, and when you see the curds begin to clearly separate, turn off the heat and let it finish the process for around 5-10 more minutes. High and longer heat will make a firmer curd, while the opposite is softer and more delicate.
Strain the curds out in either a cheese cloth, a fine strainer, or t-shirt even- though not necessarily letting it strain entirely. There is potential to decide the moisture content of the finished ricotta, which feels like the artful side of making this cheese. It’s better to strain less than more, and thoughtfully continue straining until it reaches an elegant and appropriate consistency for what you will be using it for.
Then sprinkle in salt to taste and enjoy fresh, with optional spices and herbs added.