Italian Cheese Pie
This Crostata di Ricotta is a contemporary version of an ancient Roman cheesecake. Long ago, Rome had 13 varieties of cheese. The cheese they used for cheesecake was similar to the ricotta we use today.
Today’s ricotta is used in Italian desserts of all kinds including cheese pies and cheese puddings.
This is a wonderful recipe that’s a real show stopper. You can make the pasta frolla (pastry crust) from scratch or substitute a store-bought round to shave some time off the overall prep of this yummy dessert.
Crostata di Ricotta image from and recipe adapted from Time Life’s The Cooking Of Italy, a cookbook shared with me by my mother years ago.
Makes: 1 9-inch pie
Use the pastry crust recipe below or your favorite pastry crust with zest added.
Pasta Frolla (Pastry Crust)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 12 tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks) at room temperature
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons dry Marsala wine
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange or lemon peel
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
In a large mixing bowl, make a well in the center of the flour.
Drop in the butter, egg yolks, sugar, Marsala, lemon or orange zest and salt.
With your fingertips, mix the ingredients together until mixture comes together.
With the heels of your hands, knead the dough until it is smooth and can be gathered into a ball. DO NOT OVERWORK DOUGH. If you have a mixer with a paddle attachment, put all ingredients in bowl at once and mix at low speed just until combined.
Set dough aside, covered tightly with plastic wrap.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly butter sides and bottom of a springform pan.
Take dough ball and separate about 1/4 of it and set aside in refrigerator. Keep covered.
On a floured surface, work the remaining large piece of dough into an 11-inch round about 1/8-inch thick.
Drape/roll the crust onto your rolling pin. Unfold/unroll it into your pan. Gently press the pastry into the bottom and around the sides of the pan.
Roll the pin over the rim of the pan pressing down hard to trim off the excess pastry around the top of the pan.
Partially bake crust for 10-15. Remove from oven and let cool.
While the pastry shell is partially baking, take out the remaining 1/4 of dough from refrigerator. Let rest while you mix filling.
Ricotta Filling for Crostata di Ricotta
Prep time: 10 minutes
- 5 cups ricotta cheese (2 1/2 pounds)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange or lemon peel
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon white or golden raisins
- 1 tablespoon diced citron (or candied fruit-cake mix)
- 1 tablespoon diced candied orange peel (optional)
- 2 tablespoons slivered almonds or pine nuts
- 1 egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon water for brushing strips of pastry
Combine ricotta cheese, sugar, flour, salt, vanilla, zest and yolks. Beat until thoroughly mixed.
Stir in raisins, candied fruit and zest.
Spoon filling into partially baked shell, spreading evenly.
Sprinkle the top with nuts.
Roll remaining dough into a 12-inch long rectangle.
With a pastry wheel or sharp knife, cut rectangle into even strips about 1/2-inch wide.
Brush with the egg white and water mixture.
Weave or criss-cross strips across the top of the pie in a lattice pattern.
Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 1 to 1-1/4 hours until crust is golden brown and filling is firm.
Remove pie and place on cooling rack. Let cool 10-15 minutes, then remove outside rim of pan.
Cool on a wire rack, leaving the bottom disk in place. If desired, the disk can be removed using a spatula to loosen the bottom crust – once the pie is thoroughly cooled.
Slice and serve Crostata di Ricotta with a drizzle of honey and a small cluster of grapes for an elegant dessert!