Ricotta Pie: buona pasqua!

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 grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Amy McLeod

    My husband is from Hyannis and we now live in mid-coast Maine. With that said, neither of us are Italian. Scandinavian/ French Canadian
    I love ricotta pie. I had often ventured into the North End of Boston for a slice. This was the first time I’ve made one. I’m very impressed with it. Thanks for the recipe

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      This is going to have best flavor and texture make fresh, we don’t really recommend freezing it. ~ MJ

  2. Terri Marraccino

    When I married into my husbands Sicilian family, I too was surprised when my husband was shocked that I wasn’t planning on having lasagna for Christmas (or at least the feast of seven fishes)!! You will know what I mean…
    I have wisely embraced his wonderful culture and he loves ricotta pie. I look forward to trying your recipe. Thanks

    Reply
  3. Debbie

    I made this pie today, following the instructions completely including the amaretto & full 2 tsp of vanilla but tasted like lightly flavored egg custard. The pie made the whole house smell delicious but bottom crust ended up soggy and the texture didn’t seem quite right. Overall I was disappointed & greatly miss Boston bakeries & their ricotta pie.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It’s possible your ricotta contained a bit more water than ours during testing. If it seems too watery, you can put your ricotta in a cheesecloth lined sieve for an hour or so) to let some of the extra moisture drain out, reducing the potential for a soggy bottom. While it’s not traditional, you could also use your food processor to make the filling silky smooth. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  4. 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
  5. 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

  6. 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
  7. 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
    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

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