Povera Cucina celebrates the rich tastes of Italy's humble pantry.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


   Technically, ricotta is not a cheese.  Literally meaning "re-cooked," this fluffy latticino is actually a cheese by-product.  Made from boiling the whey generated in cheese production, ricotta is milky and a tad sweet.

Fresh ricotta being boiled and made
Many Italian cooks turn to ricotta because its lacks a strong taste.  It adds a background milkiness to a dish but won't kill other ingredients. A staple throughout Italy, ricotta's curds brighten savory plates like fresh ravioli or, whipped with sugar, fill sweets like Sicily's cannoli.
Crostata di ricotta e cioccolato. Photo credit..

Bakers in Rome use ricotta in two typical "cheesecakes" -- both called crostata di ricotta.  Filling the first variety is creamy combo of ricotta, chocolate and sugar.  An older recipe shuns cioccolato for cherries.

Crostata di ricotta e visciolehttp://www.eatingitalyfoodtours.co
 Sweetened ricotta caps sour cherry jam and a crumbly crust.  This treat gets baked sans crust up top, leaving the ricotta to brown in the oven's heat. Originally a Jewish sweet made with candied fruit and honey, burnt ricotta cake became a common Roman dolce in the last 200 years.

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 yolks
  •  1.5 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 3 eggs (separate yolks & whites)
  • 1/2 teaspoon flour
  • 3/4 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 jar sour cherry preserves or amarena cherries
  • zest of one lemon
     First, prepare the crust in a food processor. Like with any butter-based crust, it's important to use very cold butter. Personally, I like to keep stick or two frozen in the fridge. Pulse the flour, sugar and rough chopped butter until a granular mix has formed; it will be sandy in texture. Then add the yolks and egg and pulse until the dough begins to form into a ball. Don't over-blend.  Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for 30 min.
       To make the filling, blend the ricotta, yolks, sugar and smidgen of flour together in the mixing bowl. Use a spoon and fold the ingredients together by hand.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg-whites until fluffy peaks form. Fold the whites by hand into the eggy ricotta mix. Stir in the zested lemon and, if desired, a pinch of cinnamon. 

Roman-Jewish ricotta cakes at Boccione in the ghetto ebraico

 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Roll the crust out and fill a pie pan with it.  You want the crostata crust to spill out over the edges of the pan.  This is a rustic dessert and precision presentation is not the goal.  Spread 3-4 tablespoons of the cherry preserves on the bottom of the crust. If you want, you can pre-bake the crust for 15 minutes; this ensure that the bottom will not turn soggy during baking. If you pre-bake, let the crust cool before adding the jam / ricotta.

Pour the ricotta filling over the cherry spread, being sure to keep a bed of preserves beneath the milky mixture.  Fold any "overflowing" dough atop the sweetened ricotta.  To give the crust up top a golden hue, brush with an egg wash before baking.  Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven.  Let the crostata cool at room temperature before serving.


  1. This looks wonderful! I love sour cherries and that sounds like a great combination with the sweetened ricotta. Thanks for sharing!

  2. looks delicious! thank you for sharing it.


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