Making homemade ricotta is incredibly easy, relatively quick (30-45 minutes), and requires literally no skill whatsoever. It is, on the other hand, a huge crowd pleaser - and if you tell everyone, "it is quite a process," you can impress them with your dark knowledge of the culinary witchcraft called cheesemaking.
Begin with a half gallon of whole milk and a half-quart of buttermilk in a large cold pot. Turn heat up to high and constantly stir with a heat-proof rubber spatula or wooden spoon. While stirring, be sure to continually scrape the bottom of the pan so that the milk does not scorch.
When the milk/buttermilk mixture comes to about 180 degrees F, curds will begin to form on the surface. At this point, stop stirring for one minute to allow them to separate from the whey. Remove from heat.
Line a sieve with cheesecloth and gently scoop curds into the cloth to allow to drain. Do not push down or squeeze. One method to allow the ricotta to drain is to tie the cheesecloth into a bundle and then to a wooden spoon suspended over a pot (see below).
Drain for 15-30 minutes. Gently remove ricotta from cloth and salt to taste.
One simple and delicious appetizer to make with your homemade ricotta is to add fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, parsley, chives, and/or lemon zest. Place it in a bowl and next to a plate of crostini (that's a fancy name for toast) so that you can spread it on yourself.
Get the kids involved and show them that cooking can be magic, making a solid cheese from liquid milk.