Sicilian Ricotta Cheesecake

Sicilian Ricotta Cheesecake

Made with a pasta frolla crust, this rich Sicilian ricotta and marscapone cheesecake is fragrant with combined flavors of Sicily – citrus, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Forget those dense ricotta cheesecakes you’re used to eating – this ricotta cheesecake is rich, creamy, and light.  Whipped egg whites help to make the ricotta less dense.  And although not traditional, the addition of marscapone cheese makes this cheesecake even creamier.  I advise you to use the best quality ricotta you can find to get the best results.

Traditional Italian ricotta cheesecakes are made with a pasta frolla crust.  But don’t let that put you off.  If you don’t want to go through all the trouble of making pasta frolla, you can also substitute your favorite graham cracker crust.  Better yet, you can also bake this cheesecake without the crust which makes it super easy to throw together.  Honestly, it will still taste the same.

SICILIAN RICOTTA CHEESECAKE
(Torta di Ricotta)

Difficulty Rating: Easy to Medium, depending on the crust.
Makes 12 servings.

FOR THE CRUST:
1 recipe pasta frolla dough or your favorite graham cracker crust

FOR THE CHEESECAKE:
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese, at room temperature 40 minutes
16 ounces marscapone cheese, at room temperature 40 minutes
8 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup candied orange peel or citron, minced (optional)

Special Equipment Needed: A 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan

LINE SPRINGFORM PAN WITH DOUGH:  Grease the springform pan with butter.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out pasta frolla dough out to a 3/8-inch thickness.  Cut a 12-inch circle using a dinner plate as a guide.  Leftover dough can be used to make cookies or tarts.  Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin and center the dough into the springform pan.  Gently press the dough along the bottom and sides of the pan.  The dough should line the pan along the botton and halfway up the sides of the pan (*click on link to pasta frolla recipe for directions).  You can trim the sides evenly with a knife or pizza cutter if you wish. Refrigerate until ready to fill.

MAKE THE CHEESECAKE BATTER:  Drain the ricotta and run through a sieve or potato ricer and set aside.

Combine 3/4 cup sugar and flour in a small bowl.  Using a mixer, beat the ricotta and sugar/flour mixture on medium speed for 1 minute.

Add the marscapone, egg yolks, lemon zest, vanilla, and cinnamon and beat until just combined, about 1 minute.  Be careful not overbeat or it may cause your cheesecake to fall.

Stir in candied orange peel.

Beat egg whites with a mixer in a medium bowl on high speed until foamy.  Gradually add remaining sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, about 4 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold egg whites into the ricotta mixture.

ASSEMBLE THE CHEESECAKE:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place a metal or aluminum pie pan, filled two-thirds with water, on the bottom of the oven.  This will increase the moisture in the oven and keep the cheese cake from cracking.  Remove the springform pan from the refrigerator and prick all over with the tines of a fork.  Spoon batter evenly into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

BAKE THE CHEESECAKE:  Place pan in oven and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes.  Turn off the oven and crack open the oven door with an oven mitt.  Let the cheesecake rest in the oven 30 to 35 minutes.  Place on a cooling rack and let cool completely.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.  To serve, run a thin spatula around the edges and sides of the pan before releasing the sides of the springform pan.  Dust with confectioners’ sugar or top with your favorite fruit topping.

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