Torta di Ricotta

For those of you that might have missed my last post, I made Homemade Ricotta Cheese for National Dairy Month, not that I need a reason to celebrate dairy, because pretty much every month is dairy month to me!  The ricotta turned out better than I could ever have expected and was so easy to make, my only regret is not trying this sooner.  I knew right away that this cheese was destined to make a ricotta cheesecake, and there was no question in my mind which cheesecake I should make.

Over the last year or so I have shared recipes and my memories of Mama Jeanette.  I think one of the few gifts of old age is to remember your younger days with great clarity, sometimes seeming more recent than current events, and lately more and more of my time with Mama Jeanette has been resurfacing.  Maybe it’s time to start writing it all down, before I lose those precious memories again.

I had watched Mama Jeanette make a variety of fresh cheeses during my time with her, but of course I didn’t really pay attention at the time, I was more interested in the end result that was being created with those delicious cheeses.  My first experience with a ricotta cheesecake was a bit of a disappointment for me, it wasn’t what I was use to, the flavors and textures were completely different, and on top of that it wasn’t very sweet.  What I would come to realize later, was the complexity of this simple dessert and the fact that sugar didn’t mask the real flavors of this glorious cake, is what made this cheesecake a staple in the Italian household.   I tried to hide my disappointment that night, but as usual Mama Jeanette could read me like a book,   she said “Sonny boy, sometimes you have to look past your expectations, to see clearly.  Don’t let your mind dictate would should be, instead let yourself imagine what could be”   That lesson has served me well over the years, even though human nature would tell you otherwise.

From that point on,  I noticed that there always seemed to be a bowl of fresh ricotta in the fridge and no matter what time of day, it became a welcome addition to many of my meals, as I came to appreciate the flavor and texture of ricotta.   I would devour my portion with fresh fruit, or simply drizzled with honey, and it was when Mama Jeanette noticed that I had learned to enjoy ricotta cheese for what it was, that she made this Torta di Ricotta that I’m going to share with you today.

Torta di Ricotta

As always there was another lesson baked inside this glorious dessert, for if this had been the first Ricotta Cheesecake I had tasted, I would never have been satisfied with the simpler versions, nor would I have learned to love that delicious cheese as it was meant to be eaten, right from the bowl.    Mama Jeanette had waited to make this incredible dessert, until she knew that I would truly understand and appreciate the complexity of flavors that were combined to make this Torta di Ricotta, like a fine wine with subtle undertones and nuances….sigh     This truly was a dessert to celebrate with, and that day we we’re celebrating life.

Totra di Ricotta

I would have never remembered the exact amounts or all of the ingredients to this wonderful cheesecake, but thankfully I had sent this recipe to a friend for safe keeping, along with a few others that time would have erased from my memory.  Come to think of it, it had been Mama Jeanette’s idea for me to mail the recipes to a friend, she knew all along  that it would a difficult journey for me.   This recipe and others would have been lost for sure, and now I entrust this recipe to you my friends, use it in good health.

Torta di Ricotta

4.9 from 8 reviews
Torta di Ricotta
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 12
Ingredients
Pine Nut Brittle
  • ¼ cup (50 gm) superfine sugar*
  • 3 tbsp (45 ml) water
  • 5 tbsp (50 gm) pine nuts
Rum Soaked Raisins
  • 4 tbsp (40 gm) golden raisins
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) rum
Crust
  • 3¼ cups (390 gm) all purpose flour
  • ½ cup (90 gm) brown sugar
  • 1¼ cup (150 gm) ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp (8 gm) baking powder
  • 8 oz (240 gm) unsalted butter, very cold cut into ¼ inch pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) ice water
Filling
  • 1½ lb whole milk ricotta cheese*
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp grated orange rind
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¾ cup (150 gm) superfine sugar
  • 2 oz (56 gm) semi sweet chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream (if mixture is too dry)
Instructions
Pine Nut Brittle
  1. toast 5 tablespoons of pine nuts in a saute pan just until they start to get color, moving them around constantly so they do not burn. Once they are toasted remove from the pan to cool
  2. in a small pan add sugar and water, heat over high neat until mixture begins to boil and all the sugar is dissolved
  3. add the pine nuts to the sugar syrup and continue to swirl the pan until the mixture turns amber.
  4. place finished mixture onto oiled cookie sheet to cool and harden
Rasins
  1. mix raisins and rum together and allow them to sit until all the rum has been absorbed
Crust
  1. using a food processor- add the flour, brown sugar, almonds, and baking powder, pulse 2 or 3 times
  2. add butter pieces and pulse 4 or 5 times until mixture looks like coarse meal
  3. mix egg, and vanilla together and pour into the mixture while the food processor is running. Mix just enough to blend!
  4. If mixture looks too dry add ice water
  5. Dough will look loose, that's ok
  6. place dough onto work table and form into 2 balls, one third and two thirds of mixture. Do not work dough, even if it does not come completely together, just do your best to form balls, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Filling
  1. Mix ricotta, orange rind, vanilla, sea salt, sugar, raisins and pine nut brittle together until well blended*
  2. Add chocolate chips
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C)
  2. using a 10 inch springform pan, line the inside with aluminum foil, overlapping slightly on the outside. Use two criss crossing pieces, and make sure foil is tight to the sides of the pan.
  3. place larger of your dough balls in the pan and flatten it out, going half way up the inside of the pan with the dough. Make this layer is as even as possible, especially the side walls.
  4. Spoon ricotta mixture into the prepared pan
  5. In between two pieces of parchment paper, roll out the remaining dough ball, just a little bit larger than your springform pan.
  6. Place this dough onto of the ricotta mixture, and carefully pinch the dough into dough on the sides of the pan.
  7. Don't worry if it cracks slightly, just try not to leave any holes in the dough.
  8. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the top is a nice golden brown.
  9. Allow cheesecake to cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, then remove the outer pan and very gently peel back the foil and allow it to continue to cool for an additional 30 minutes.
  10. Refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours before serving to allow it to set up, there are no eggs in this cake to help bind it, and if you cut it too soon it will run.
  11. After the cheesecake has set up, remove the bottom of the springform pan and place on serving platter, allow cheesecake to come back to room temperature before serving.
Notes
*if you do not have superfine sugar, you can pulse granulated sugar 5 or 6 times until it becomes a finer granule. * My homemade ricotta was very dry and I needed to add ¼ cup of heavy cream to the mixture

 

I have not made this Torta in 15 years, that’s a long time between cheesecakes!    The last time I made this delicious creation I was the chef at an Italian Restaurant that specialized in Regional Italian cuisine, this was at a time when there were very few celebrity chefs and Italian Cuisine was just coming into it’s own, I was cutting edge back then, and people came from all around to dine with me…..it seems so long ago now.

I was strictly culinary though, with no real interest in pastry, we had a pastry chef and that’s an entirely different set of skills.  Mama Jeanette hadn’t spent too much time on baking, there was just so little time and so much to teach me.   So when the restaurant was sold, and me along with it, I inherited the duties of pastry chef.   I would arrive  early in the morning and begin baking, when things didn’t turn out, they disappeared.  My philosophy back then was “if no one saw it, it never happened” , and the first time I made this delicious dessert, I failed miserably…….let’s just say it’s a good thing when you can have a do-over.     When I first made this cake, I allowed it to cool, but I just couldn’t wait to try it and cut into it without letting it set up.  After all I was The Chef, why did I have to wait, just because the directions told me to…..sigh

The filling oozed out all over the plate and the cheesecake was ruined, all of this in front of the entire wait staff.   I knew I would never hear the end of this until I successfully made this dessert, so after work I stayed and re-made the Torta di Ricotta, and after allowing it to cool, placed it in the refrigerator to set up overnight (like Mama Jeanette had told me).   I guess you know Mama Jeanette was right, the Torta came out like a dream!  My baking prowess, and status of Chef de Cuisine was redeemed, and all was right in my world, but I never made it again.  Today is my do-over, just to be sure I could get it right on the first attempt, and I did…..thank goodness for do-overs!

Over the years the old chef has had a good number of do-overs, some in cooking and some in life, but that’s what life’s about now,  isn’t it?

Now if I could just figure out a way to have a do-over for the last 30 years………

Thanks for stopping by today, and If you’d like to participate in the ultimate do-over, check out the link below and visit Frigidaire at their Facebook page!

This post was sponsored by Frigidaire. When you share your own do-over moment at Facebook.com/Frigidaire, Frigidaire will donate $1 to Save the Children’s U.S. programs. Plus, Frigidaire will help cover the costs for one lucky visitor to win the ultimate do-over.

Comments

  1. The passion to cook or to bake already lived within you. I loved to cook, and love to eat pastry but, can’t seem to bake to save my life (laugh).

    I celebrate dairy month almost everyday too, and love the idea that you made homemade ricotta.

    Cheers.
    Velva

  2. Thank you for sharing your memories with us, Chef. While every recipe is special in it’s own way, recipes created by or with family/loved ones, are the most endearing.

  3. What lovely memories, Chef. I love your Torta di Ricotta; the golden crust paired with the creamy filling is perfection!

  4. This looks so good. I think we all need do overs from time to time. It makes me sad that you’d do over your life though. But I get it. I think a lot of us would do over the damage we do to our bodies or make a different career choice. Keep on keeping on my friend.

  5. um…yum. I made some home made ricotta last year but never thought about turning it into this. this is like a perfect thanksgiving desert. I will be making this soon (who can wait for november) thanks for sharing:)

  6. It looks amazing this time, I love that idea of do overs. Sometime we all need to work up to a do over, especially with results like this.

  7. Thank you for sharing this story. I truly enjoyed it.

  8. Hallo from Italy! This seems a really delicious crostata! You know, we Italians really love cheese and especially ricotta because is a kind of “light” cheese. With ricotta it is possible also make a cake that is really light because it has really few butter and no heavy cream and it is perfect for breakfast, if interested you can find the recipe on my blog (it’s a family recipe) :-)

  9. Chef Dennis…this looks really good ! You did a great job on the ricotta cheese and now this amazing ricotta cheescake :) A winner alright and I am sure it tasted delicious with your homemade ricotta. Any left for me :p I am a Piggy not for nothing LOL! And thank you for sharing Mama Jeanette ‘s recipe with us. We are the lucky lots :)

    Have a great summer hols,
    Regards,
    Elin

  10. This looks aboslutely divine. All the flavors pair so beautifully together – I think I might have to try this over the summer. Wonderful post!

  11. What a wonderful memory of Mama Jeanette and a gorgeous Torta di Ricotta! She would be so proud!

  12. I just recently started making ricotta this year – so easy and SO delicious!

  13. That looks amazing Chef! Anything with ricotta and I am in!

  14. Another great use of home produced cheese! Saw your info about making ricotta at home. The torts looks amazing. Bet a thin slice with a small glass of dessert wine- late harvest gewurtztraminer or perhaps a sherry- would be heaven. And always love the stories ;-)

  15. Nice healthy food…
    Need to try it

  16. Family recipes are always the best. This cheesecake is the proof! Looks amazing, Chef!

  17. oh chef, if I was able, I would travel from around the world to dine with you too…fact. And yes, you should consider writing some memoirs, go back as far as you can remember, and begin chronicling it. I’ve been working on that myself…what a journey it’s been. And what a treasure it is to have Mama Jeanette’s recipe, she was so wise to have you mail it to someone you trust.

  18. My mouth is watering! This looks amazing. My Nana makes this for Easter. Yum!!!

  19. Congratulations! Your Torta certainly deserves to be #1 on today’s Foodbuzz Top 9! :D

  20. Torta di ricotta looks delicious. I made both ricotta cookies no one in the house take even a taste test. Then Ricotta bread and tried do a dutch crumb topping simply ruined the bread. So I sure I need to do over. You are right, sometimes we need to do over to get the dish correctly.

  21. absolutely stunning. congrats on the top 9!

  22. What a wonderful story to share. Beautiful words besides a beautiful recipe. Thank you. I will be making this for sure!

  23. Wish I could pin this!

  24. Congratulations Dennis! This cake looks amazing. I love ricotta; I make ricotta homemade almost every day. I have a lot of recipes with it. Thank you for another yummy recipe.

    http://leascooking.blogspot.com/

  25. Immaculate job… as always!

    http://allykayler.blogspot.ca/

  26. Leascooking says:

    Love this recipe; It deserves to be #1
    I love everything with ricotta.

    http://leascooking.blogspot.com/

  27. I’m so glad you have the recipe to share!! What a treat this Torta is…. I’m dreaming of all things Italian right about now, and you have filled the dream! Thanks Dennis, and happy almost weekend.

  28. I am very keen to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing. I have an Italian friend who has been pestering me to bake a ricotta tart. I hope I do your recipe justice. :)

  29. What a wonderful story and a great lesson to learn. Your torta looks absolutely delicious.

  30. I missed your fresh ricotta post! But will now have to check it out. It’s always so expensive to buy. And I don’t think I fully appreciate ricotta in it’s natural state. I’ve definitely never had it plain with a little honey drizzled over it. Once I make my first batch of fresh ricotta, I will have to have it like that first! Congrats on top 9!!

  31. You always have the greatest stories to share with your recipes!
    And your torta looks wonderful… I would love a few slices :P

  32. That cake looks unbelievable! Thank you so much for posting :-)

  33. Is the pine nut brittle chopped up in a food processor before adding to ricotta? Sorry if I missed this somewhere in the recipe. Sounds delicious. I’m making it this evening. Will rate tomorrow.

    • just break it up by hand, most of it will crack as you take it off the sheet. I look forward to seeing your your cheesecake comes out!

      • Thanks Chef. I made the cake last night. Delicious! It tasted just like I thought it would when I served it today. I had a bit of trouble with the top crust, put patched and tapped it into place and it turned out fine. My guests asked for the recipe. This was a good one!

        • I had a little trouble with the top as well, but it does seem to bake ok, that’s one of the reasons I dusted it with 10x sugar to hide a few of the imperfections!
          Glad to hear you enjoyed the cake! Thanks for letting me know.

  34. This sounds right up my alley! But first I need to try making my own cheese, it has been on my list-to-do for SO long!

Trackbacks

  1. […] browsing for pictures of ricotta. When Marleen’s saw the picture of the blog of Chef Dennis (http://www.askchefdennis.com/2012/06/torta-di-ricotta/) she said I had to make that torta di ricotta, and I […]

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