Italian Ricotta Pie
Our easy-to-make version of this classic Italian dessert is the perfect finish for a spring dinner party or Easter celebration.
Ricotta cheese pie is an Italian-style cheesecake that uses ricotta instead of cream cheese.
It’s a traditional Easter dessert in Italy, and as with many Italian recipes, flavors and ingredients can vary slightly from region to region.
Some versions are flavored with a bit of Marsala wine or anise liqueur, while others add rice or raisins and bits of candied fruit to the filling.
Most popular is the version called Pastiera Napoletana. This authentic recipe is flavored with orange blossom water and combines the ricotta cheese with grano cotta (cooked wheat) for added texture.
Our version of Italian Ricotta Pie is somewhat simpler. It has a buttery tart crust and a lightly sweetened filling that’s delicately flavored with fresh orange zest and lemon.
How To Make Italian Ricotta Pie
For ease and convenience, both the filling and the crust for this recipe are made in the food processor.
We start by making a simple short-crust with chilled butter, flour, a bit of sugar and a pinch of salt. Those ingredients are processed until crumbly, then, with the processor running, ice water is added until the dough forms a ball.
This is the crust we use for our favorite quiche recipe too and it’s a virtually foolproof recipe that always produces great results.
Making the filling for this dessert requires a little advance planning because the ricotta needs to be set aside to drain excess liquid. This process takes a minimum of 4 hours (overnight is better), but it ensures the filling will set properly.
Once the ricotta is ready, it’s combined in the processor with eggs, sugar, orange zest, vanilla and lemon extracts. A slurry made with cornstarch and cream is then added and the mixture is processed until silky smooth.
The filling is poured over the crust and the cake is baked for 45 minutes to an hour and left in the oven with the door open until cooled to prevent cracking.
We usually serve this dessert just as it is, but you could definitely add a topping of whipped cream or fresh berries if desired.
- 1-1/4 lbs ricotta
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 cup cream
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the crust:
- 8 tablespoons well-chilled, unsalted butter
- 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water (or more if needed)
- Have a glass of ice water standing by and cut the butter into 16 pieces.
- Place the steel blade into the work bowl of your food processor and add the flour and salt. Scatter the butter over the flour. Using the pulse function, process until the mixture is crumbly, with pieces the size of very small peas.
- With the processor running, start adding the ice water through the feed tube in 1 tablespoon increments until the dough gathers into one or two large pieces. Run the processor for an additional 10 to 15 seconds, just long enough for the dough to gather into a ball. Be careful not to over-process.
- Remove the dough from the processor and place it on a sheet of plastic wrap. Using your hands, flatten it into a 1/2-inch thick circle. Wrap tightly and chill for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator or 7 to 10 minutes in the freezer.
- When the crust is ready to roll, dust both your rolling surface and the top of the dough with flour. Gently roll the dough from the center out, to a diameter of about 11 inches, dusting with a little additional flour as you go along. Place the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan on the dough and using a sharp knife, trim away the excess (see note below).
- Generously butter the bottom and sides of the springform pan and place the dough on the base. Assemble and lock the pan, then, using your fingers, press the dough into the edges of the pan and up the side about 1/4-inch - just enough to seal the seam. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the filling.
- At least 4 hours in advance (preferably overnight), place the ricotta in a fine strainer positioned over a bowl and refrigerate. This process drains the excess liquid in the cheese and ensures that the filling will solidify properly.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Place the ricotta, eggs, sugar, lemon extract, vanilla extract and orange zest in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until smooth, 30 seconds.
- In a small bowl, whisk the cream and cornstarch together until well blended. Add to the ricotta mixture and process for an additional 45 seconds or until the mixture is silky smooth. Pour into the prepared springform pan and set on a baking sheet.
- Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the filling has risen and the center barely jiggles when you shake the pan gently. You can also test by inserting a butter knife into the center of the pie. If it comes out clean, the pie is done.
- Open the oven door, but leave the pie inside to cool for 15 minutes. This helps prevent cracking. Cool for an additional 45 minutes outside the oven, then carefully remove the sides from the pan. Transfer the pie to a plate and allow to cool completely before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers.
You can re-roll the excess tart dough, cut it into small squares, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake at 425°F until golden and crisp.
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