Ricotta Pie: buona pasqua!

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What’s the difference between ricotta pie, and cheesecake?

Not much, taste-wise.

But if you’re looking for a lighter-textured “cheesecake,” do what many an Italian family does: enjoy a modest slice of Amaretto-scented ricotta pie, topped (or not) with orange marmalade.

With a cup of espresso, it’s the perfect end to the typical Easter feast: ham, potatoes, vegetables, salad… and lasagna.

Yes, lasagna. I’ve learned, after nearly 37 years of enjoying holidays with my Italian in-laws – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, birthdays – that pasta is seldom left out of any celebratory occasion.

Even if the Thanksgiving turkey itself isn’t accompanied by a bowl of spaghetti (as it occasionally has been), you can be sure that pasta was on tap the night before; or will be ready by halftime of the final football game Thanksgiving night – turkey tetrazzini, anyone?

Thankfully, I love pasta, and would happily eat it three times a day (if I was active enough to work it off). And while I’ve never really learned to love Italian desserts – aside from biscotti and pizzelle – ricotta pie is one treat I happily embrace each Easter.

Along with the lasagna, of course.

[Attention, all you Italians out there – my family’s not alone in serving pasta at every holiday, are we? Reassure me with a comment below, please!]

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the following in a food processor or blender, and process until totally ground, but not powdery:

2 whole graham crackers, enough to make a scant 1/3 cup crumbs
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup almonds — whole, slivered, or blanched; honey roasted are tasty
pinch of salt

Rub a generous amount of soft butter on the inside of a 9″ pie pan at least 1 1/2″ deep; use a deep-dish pan, if you have one. If your pie pan isn’t at least 1 1/2″ deep, substitute a 9″ square pan.

Pour the crumbs into the pan, tilting and shaking the pan to distribute the crumbs across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet, to make it easy to handle once you’ve added the filling.

To make the filling, place the following in a mixing bowl:

3 cups ricotta cheese, whole-milk or part-skim
6 large eggs
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar*
1/4 cup Amaretto liqueur, optional
1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, to taste
1/8 teaspoon salt

*Add sugar to taste, for a sweeter or less sweet cheesecake.

Tip: If you’re not someone who keeps liqueur in the house but wants to try the Amaretto in this recipe, purchase one of the small “nips” from the liquor store. It should be a scant 1/4 cup, but if it’s not, don’t worry; just use however much you have.

Pour the filing into the crust; it will come nearly to the lip of the pan. That’s why you need to use a pan that’s at least 1 1/2″ deep.

Bake the pie for 45 to 50 minutes, until it’s puffed up, turned golden, and is becoming brown around the very outside edge.

A digital thermometer inserted into the center should register about 160°F. The pie will still look quite unset in the center; that’s OK.

Remove the pie from the oven, and cool it to room temperature. Note that it’ll sink in the center as it cool; again, no worries, that’s as it should be.

Once it’s cool, refrigerate the pie until it’s chilled.

Serve the pie as is, in all its simple glory.

Or add the topping of your choice. Orange marmalade, heated briefly in the microwave to make it pourable, is a nice topping for this pie. Grated orange peel is often one of the ingredients in the filling; but substituting an orange-based topping gives you more flexibility, in case your audience includes those who might not like orange in their cheesecake – er, ricotta pie.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Ricotta Pie.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Janet

    My Sicilian grandmother used to make ricotta pie only one day of the year, Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. It was never made at any other time and we looked forward to it all year long. She called it “Cassata” and along with vanilla, it was flavored with cinnamon – very Sicilian – and she grated chocolate on top when it came out of the oven. It was always baked in a pastry crust – pasta frolla in Italian.

    My mother whose family came from Bari, Italy, started to make it during the year because we all loved it so much. It is one of my go-to desserts and I have never found someone who didn’t love it. I have also added my own “tweak” to the recipe – I use a half teaspoon of King Arthur’s “Fior di Sicilia” along with the vanilla and cinnamon in honor of my Sicilian heritage. I think my grandmother would definitely approve,

    Fiori is a great idea – adds that traditional touch of citrus without the candied peel. Thanks for sharing, Janet – PJH

    Reply
  2. jmanni

    Pasta at every holiday – check! Even on Thanksgiving, most of the Italian families in my area first do the Escarole Soup (with the little meatballs, also known as Italian Wedding Soup) then we do a ravioli course, then the Turkey and all the trimmings.

    My grandparents never served ricotta pie because my mother didn’t like it, but when I finally got a chance to try it from a bakery, I loved it! I’m very excited to try this recipe. Grazie mille!

    Prego – enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  3. kaf-sub-rosiebucherati

    Don’t worry PJ, you’re not alone! It is not a real holiday for my large Italian/Sicilian family without at least one pasta dish served with the rest of the feast.

    I’ve had ricotta pie before at Italian delis, but this recipe looks great and is definitely getting added to my baking queue.

    Rosie, I know you’ll like it. Be sure to share with your co-workers! :) PJH

    Reply
  4. lorrainesfav

    Yes PJ, there is always some type of pasta served with our Italian dinner parties. The pasta usually pairs with the type of meat or fish we are having. Red meat sauce, plain marinara sauce, lemon sauce, white wine sauce, etc. The ricotta pie looks delicious and easy to make. I might top it with fresh sliced strawberries since they are so fresh and sweet right now here in Florida.

    Great idea, Lorraine – I’m glad you’re enjoying fresh strawberries now. Nothing like getting them right from the source, eh? PJH

    Reply
  5. sohn

    We always had a lasagna with turkey on Thanksgiving growing up in NJ and we are Korean! Thanks for the recipe. Always love your blogs.

    A true slice of Americana – STILL the great melting pot… thanks for your kind comments! PJH

    Reply
  6. calico

    PJ, we used to always have pasta as part of our holiday meal. My mom’s specialty was manicotti. I also remember that there were some years we had stuffed shells or lasagna, but mostly manicotti. Thanks for the ricotta pie recipe. I make this pie every Easter and I would love to try your recipe this year. Just like all your creations, it looks delicious!

    Manicotti – I haven’t made manicotti in years… Need to do that. It’s so easy, really – and SO good. Thanks for the memories – and inspiration. PJH

    Reply
  7. LindaJean

    I married in to an Italian family. Homemade pasta at every holiday meal. When my husband’s friends were invited – back in the college years – there would be no discussion that the pasta course preceded the entre. Friends would fill up on the abundant pasta and be dismayed when the next course was brought out. Thankfully I was clued in for my first family meal. Ricotta pie is not a family specialty and my previous attempt was not particularly tasty. I may try this one for Easter as I now have a daughter who loves cheesecake. I like Janet’s tradition of flavoring with cinnamon and chocolate. Gotta go bake…

    LindaJean, I did the same thing the first time I met my in-laws – filled up on the spaghetti. Then the steak appeared… Enjoy the pie! :) PJH

    Reply
  8. solsken

    I feel the urge to adjust this for passover, as the filling is kosher/passover (minus the amaretto)…

    I am thinking matzah and sugar or molasses…

    sounds like a sinful but nice light change of pace for passover this year…

    Definitely – I didn’t think of that, but great idea. And just in time – next weekend, right? Chag Pesach! PJH

    Reply
  9. Maureen Grisanti Larison

    Long ago, I remember trying to tell my husband not to eat so much homemade ravioli at our first big family dinner, but he couldn’t resist. After all the other courses appeared, he was sorry he hadn’t listened. Eventually he learned to pace himself!

    We make Rice Torta at Easter, but this looks delicious… I may have to add a new dessert to our menu!

    Reply
  10. Anneripp

    Looks wonderful. And I love cheesecake.
    If we don’t use Amaretto, do we need to replace the liquid with something else?

    No, not necessary. Though you could replace with orange juice if you want to add some classic orange flavor to the pie… PJH

    Reply
  11. craftyP

    I really would love to make this and actually made lasagna this morning! Which means I have a lot of leftover ricotta…. I was just about to hunt down a few recipes! Now, it being 2 weeks before Easter and having all this ricotta to use could you freeze this pie? I already have a great lemon ricotta cookie and pancake, so this would be the perfect use for the rest of the ricotta (it was on sale! I bought a very large container!)

    Also, we have pasta at many of our holidays- I skip it on Easter though.
    The biggest downfall to freezing is that you’ll get an odd texture to the creamy part of the pie, and a soggy crust. If you can hold off until just a day or two before Easter to make the pie, you’ll get better results. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  12. glpruett

    This ricotta pie sounds WONDERFUL! And although there isn’t a drop of Italian heritage on either side of the family, I think this will be my Easter dessert this year. Thanks for the recipe!
    We can all be Irish on March 17th, so why not embrace the Italian culture for Easter? ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  13. JuliaJ

    Ooh, I think I’ll make this into a bar cookie–with a shortbread crust, or maybe the cookie base from lemon bars… yum!
    Can’t wait to hear how they come out. Betsy@KAF

    Reply
  14. Doug S.

    Yes, pasta at every holiday meal (expect 4th of July)l. Ravioli (cheese filled) or Agnoili (meat filled) stuffed pasta for Thanksgiving– always. Christmas is always ricotta gnocchi. Bagna Cauda is always the appetizer.

    To be honest, I make a really small turkey because the kids would rather eat the pasta. Easter will be stuffed artichokes, followed by a fennel and orange salad, ricotta gnocchi, and a final dish of abbacchio or capretto al forno(depending on what I find locally that year). I was going to do panna cotta and pizzelle for dessert, but I may break out a ricotta pie this year.

    Oh, Doug – that menu sounds WONDERFUL! Wish I could join you. Enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  15. hedgehog75

    Just finished Palm Sunday dinner with my in laws. Ham, mashed potatoes vegetables and of course Lasagna! Have an extra container of ricotta left over so I’m thinking ill try this wonderful recipe for Easter next week! Thanks for the timely posting of this recipe!

    Reply
  16. cbmomcat

    This ricotta Pie looks so much like the ones my Grandmother (“Nonna”) made when I was little. I feel the need to make it this Easter! As for pasta….we had Cappaletti every Christmas. To this day, all of the cousins (3 generations worth) make it together and divide it up for each family to have Christmas Day. we generally make about 1200 of the filled noodles,that look like little hats.It goes into soup, a lovely chicken broth, traditionally made with a chicken, capon and rooster.From the youngest to the oldest, all of the family looks forward to it! Thank you for the dessert recipe. It will be on our Easter table!

    What a lovely story! My family also used to have the day when everyone pitched in to make hundreds of shaped pasta noodles (and later in the year was cannoli day!). Enjoy the ricotta pie! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  17. MVDagata

    My Italian family ALWAYS started any holiday with a huge
    Italian meal feed first, followed by the traditional American holiday favorites for the occasion, It felt like we ate all day long to not offend grandma, the great aunties and everyone who brought their ‘special’ dish, then came the desserts, vino and coffee!
    Now that I am older I just make what we all like in much smaller portions! LOL

    Reply
  18. pcm

    My family always has some sort of pasta at every holiday. I remember the first holiday my now scottish husband had with us. He thought that the pasta was all that we were eating even with me whispering to him to pace

    We had this on every easter. My family is from Naples.

    Oh my! I’m sure your husband learned from that first holiday what a true Italian meal really means. ;) What a delightful story! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  19. Cozycub

    PJ, I’m of Puerto Rican descent, but luckily enough my uncle married an Italian woman who introduced our family to all sorts of holiday traditions, including pasta (mostly lasagna) as part of every holiday meal…something which my mother, myself, and my daughters continue to this day! She also gave us a killer recipe for cream-cheese based cheesecake, which I make to perfection to this day, and have even adapted into a homemade ice cream, but I’ve never made the ricotta-based type. This sounds delish, and since I happen to have leftover ricotta from a lasagna I made today (Palm Sunday, of course) this is definitely happening for next weekend! Thanks so much!

    Reply
  20. Ann

    Will these delicious Easter recipes be kept online after Easter, (I hope)? I would like to try them all, but there just isn’t enough time!

    Ann: they most certainly will be! All our recipes shall stay here for you when you have the time (and hunger) for them after Easter! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  21. Roselyn

    Can you make this with a different crust or even crustless so that it could be used for Passover?

    You can certainly make this without a crust (perhaps check for doneness 5 minutes early, though!). You can also easily use matzoh crumbs in place of the graham cracker crumbs, increasing the sugar by a tablespoon. Kim@KAF

    Reply
  22. CARA

    Can you recommend changes to make it gluten-free? I’d love to make these as Easter gifts… I know from my Galpals that Amaretto is GF!

    This is an easy one: use GF crackers (like a GF ginger snap or plain GF vanilla cookie) to swap out for the graham crackers. Keep the rest the same! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  23. rose

    I’m a NJ third generation Italian and yes yes yes… macaroni at every holiday and every Sunday growing up in the 1950’s. It never occurred to me that nobody else had a pasta course at holidays. When I took my then-boyfriend now-husband to his first holiday meal, he pushed back from the table totally full after the lasagna. He was actually shocked when the turkey and the roast beef came out! It was really funny.
    Yesterday it was home made ravioli at Palm Sunday dinner plus the regular meal, of course.
    I don’t have a family recipe for this pie and I will be trying yours next week.. thanks!

    So many of us from Italian families have this same funny story – to most, pasta IS the centerpiece. To Italians, pasta is the given – sometimes centerpiece, sometimes “just” playing a supporting role. :) PJH

    Reply
  24. MJvt

    We had a version of ricotta pie every Easter but it had noodles in it and the custard had a touch of cinnamon(like a kugel). Nonna called it “pastina”. We had our Easter pasta meal at noon with our grandparents and then took a passeggiata (walk) to make room for the ham dinner to follow.

    Reply
  25. "p1d1mcb@centurylink.net"

    I made this today with a few changes; made 1/2 the recipe and used 2 Tbsp. Splenda, 1oz. Bushmills Irish whiskey, grated lemon peel, 1/8 tsp. vanilla. Used oatmeal instead of graham crackers for the crust; then baked it in a 6″ cheesecake pan. While it baked I made some tangerine/lemon marmalade with splenda for topping. I have to say it was very good; not really crazy about overly sweet desserts and this was just right. Next time I think I’ll use apricot brandy!!!!

    Wow, this fancier version sounds superb – thanks for sharing! And I love the apricot brandy idea… PJH

    Reply
  26. Leslieileen

    All right, you have me confused. I went to the recipe and see you’ve posted a note that you meant 1.5 pounds of ricotta and the recipe is now correct. The recipe still says 3 cups. Which is it?

    Both measurements are actually correct! Three cups of ricotta actually weighs 1.5 pounds.-Jon

    Reply
  27. jms2

    I made this recipe yesterday for my husband’s birthday. Everyone loved it. The recipe worked perfectly. I used a 9″ springform pan…silcone ring with a ceramic bottom. Thanks for another great recipe.

    Thank you for enjoying the recipe!-Jon

    Reply
  28. Tracey V

    I am married to an Italian, and yes pasta is a must. Especially on Sunday. I tried the “Italian cheesecake” and like it much better than the same ole cheesecake. Reminds me of an egg custard more than a traditional cheesecake. I have never had it with the amaretto, however.

    Amaretto is fantastic in custards so I would give it a try!-Jon

    Reply
  29. turtle346

    Hi! My grandmother made this every Easter!! I want to make it but I only have glass 9in pie dish….do I need to make any adjustments for the oven temp and time cooking? I may just get a metal pan.. Please let me know! Thanks!!

    You will need to decrease the baking temperature by about 25 degrees for a glass pan; the baking time should stay about the same.-Jon

    Reply
  30. janetc29

    I’ve been making this pie for many years, with a very similar recipe handed down through 3 generations. The recipe I use (and others I’ve seen) includes a small amount of flour (varies from recipe to recipe) in the filling, with no other changes, and is delicious. What purpose does that small amount of flour serve? And, does leaving it out, as with your recipe, make any difference to the flavor or consistency (or anything else)? Thanks!

    I have seen small amounts of flour in some cheesecake and ricotta pie recipes as well. The only effect it may have is to increase the structure of the product itself. However, I have never noticed much difference between a ricotta pie recipe with flour and without.-Jon

    Reply
  31. volprincess

    I’m not sure how I felt about this recipe. The texture was good. I put in ~ 1/2 teaspoon of fiori di Sicilia and it added too much of an orange flavor to the point where your tongue almost tingled. I think next time I would nix the flavoring and increase the amaretto. My friends generally approved of it, but I served very small slices. I think more would be overwhelming.

    A little Fiori can go a long way, it’s true. Thanks for giving it a try – better luck next time, with the Amaretto. PJH

    Reply
  32. rowalsh

    I made this recipe for Easter and it turned out fine but no one particularly liked the crust so next time I will go back to a traditional pastry crust and not waste the almonds.Thank you for trying the recipe this year and for your feedback. Elisabeth

    Reply
  33. Karen

    I made the bad decision to double the recipe and bake it in an 9 x 13 pan. The outside was overcooked before the center reached 160, which gave the outer pieces a rubbery texture. It also seemed too eggy tasting but that may have resulted from doubling. My family didn’t really care for the flavor of the amaretto. If I ever make this again I’ll probably replace it with 1/4 tsp of lemon or orange oil or Fiori di Sicilia.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences Karen. That is how we all learn, so we appreciate it. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  34. Linda

    I would like to know what kind of ricotta you used. In NY the ricotta is nice and thick but every time I have made the ricotta pie with the kind you buy at the grocery store it is too soft even though I strain it.

    It’s true – we used ricotta from our grocery store….no specialty store or specialty ricotta required! You might consider calling our baker’s hotline at 855-371-2253 for more problem solving in person. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

    Reply
  35. Nancy

    I have all of those Italian memories and dinners mentioned above. Love pasta and everything Italian that I grew up with. I am going to make your ricotta pie recipe. My mother’s calls for 2 lbs. of ricotta and 2 lbs. eggs (weigh in shell) ……. thought you’d get a chuckle about weighing the eggs, and I have done that. Enjoyed reading all of your posts!

    Reply
  36. Addie

    I grew up in a household where both my Italian mother and her sister cooked for family dinners, and good grief, you’re right, there was always food to spare. Mom and her sister made homemade raviolis (spinach and cheese filing – to DIE for) and also homemade tortellinis – a TON of work because they are so small. I still make the raviolis from time to time. Since I live alone, it’s not a frequent undertaking, but I do make up a big batch and freeze ‘em!

    This pie sounds amazing.. must try and see how it comes out… I love cheesecake and also love ricotta. this will be fun!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You could, Jessica. However, I find that the texture of the cheesecake will suffer somewhat when using ricotta. Also, make sure to use the same amount by weight. Jon@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Ricotta is another cheese, and cheesecakes that have been baked freeze beautifully. Wrap tightly and freeze for up to 3 months. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  37. CharlyD

    I think I’ll try this next week, with a couple small adjustments. I will use my home-made Limoncello instead of amaretto di saronno ,’baking spice’, a local product. for a spicy touch, and sugar cookies instead of graham crackers for the crust. Sugar cookies only because graham crackers just ain’t what they used to be since Nabisco decided Mexico was a cheaper place to produce the product.

    CharlyD

    Reply
  38. Marti

    I married into an Italian family and the first time my husband to be took me home to meet his parents was on a Sunday for dinner. First came an antipasti platter. Then came homemade ravioli with sauce. I had never had homemade ravioli before and I ate two big plates of it….also not realizing that it was NOT the main dish, but just another course! Then came the chicken and braccioli! To my dismay…I could not eat but a tiny bit of that….then came a large, wonderful salad…and finally dessert with coffee and liqueurs. ALWAYS there was pasta at every dinner. If there was leftover pasta, the next morning we fried it up in a little olive oil, sprinkled cheese over it, and ate it for breakfast!

    Reply
  39. Mayre

    I was thinking of making this for Easter and would love to use my mini pie pans, how should I alter the cooking time? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Mayre, hard to say since “mini” can mean many different things. I’d suggest you start checking at about 25 minutes, though, and use a thermometer to test the center of a pie, to see if it’s come to the suggested temperature. Good luck, and enjoy – PJH

  40. Joanne

    I’m Italian I live 7 miles north of Boston. I have been baking ricotta pie for Easter for the past 25 years or so, but for the last two years I’ve been buying it at a local bakery well known for their ricotta pie. They have it all the time. This year I decided to search for a new recipe. I came across this one on KAF because it’s so easy to prepare. I just took it out of the oven. It looks yummy.
    Will definitely make it more often.

    Reply

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