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
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.
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