You may think life's too short to start making your own cheese, but homemade ricotta is a proverbial revelation. Not only is it laughably easy, it's just miles from the lumpy, watery matter of the supermarkets: the real stuff is mild, milky and proud.
It's also enormously useful. You can dot a pizza with it, or spread it (ideally when it's still warm) on hot toast with a bit of jam, or fold it into an omelette, or sprinkle it onto salad, or stuff canneloni or cannoli with it. The Sicilians make a glorious cake with it called cassata. It has far less fat than cream, so you can use it for smooth, silky pasta sauces that are unexpectedly easy to digest, and won't leave you feeling like you've swallowed a brick.
I add some cream to mine which obviously makes it richer – leave it out if you like. I also use buttermilk to curdle the milk: lemon juice and vinegar would both do the job, as of course would rennet. However you do it, you'll be left with something very fine, and there's something pleasing, almost alchemical, in watching it curdle and set.
Makes about 250g
1l organic whole milk
1 tsp salt
Place all the ingredients in a large pan and bring to 90 degrees Celsius, stirring frequently to make sure the mix isn't scorching. (If you haven't got a thermometer, heat everything until it's just about to boil.) Remove from the heat and ladle carefully into a colander lined with cheesecloth. Leave to drain for about 20 minutes, then gather into a bundle and press gently to squeeze out the excess liquid. If you're not using it straight away, seal the cheese in something airtight in the fridge – it'll keep for 3 0r 4 days.