Forget the cream cheese. If you want a lighter, fluffier cheesecake, pick up the ricotta cheese instead. Blending traditional Italian flavors of lemon and almond atop a cookie base, this dessert is a sweet way to cap off an Easter feast without weighing you down.
Disclosure: I received cheese from Calabro Cheese Corp. to facilitate this recipe. I received no other compensation and the opinions contained herein are my own and reflect my experience with the products. Your own may differ.
I’m not really reinventing the wheel here. Traditionally, Italian households make ricotta pie at Easter. Think of it as a cheesecake filling in a pie crust. I’ve simply reconfigured a few different recipes from my Italian heritage. I took the general method for the ricotta filling but instead opted for a more familiar cheesecake cookie crumb crust.
But let me back up because this recipe starts with the Calabro hand-dipped fresh whole-milk ricotta. This award-winning ricotta is made using old-world techniques from a Calabro family recipe developed over 50 years ago! Every curd is hand-scooped and hand-packed from small-batch kettles. You don’t want to hide this rich glorious stuff. You need to honor its buttery flavor and beautifully smooth texture.
During our trip to Sicily last Fall, I could not get over how the cannoli filling still actually tasted like ricotta. It wasn’t the overly sweet and dense filling I keep finding at bakeries around here. It satiated my craving for a sweet treat but didn’t completely lose its savory quality. It honored the fact it was made with cheese, you know? I tried to do the same thing in this recipe, that is, enhance rather than overpower the ricotta.
Lemon adds an excellent brightness to the cheesy filling; what goes better with lemon than almond? Crushed-up amaretti (small crunchy almond cookies) and some sliced almonds created the perfect crunchy base. All the flavors came together to compliment the delicate cheesy taste of the ricotta.
Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake with Almond Cookie Crust
- 1 cup amaretti cookies crumbs
- 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
- 4 tablespoons butter melted
- 2 cups ricotta
- 3 eggs separated
- 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Rub a generous amount of soft butter on the inside of an 8.5-inch springform pan.
- Make the crust by placing the cookie crumbs and sliced almonds in a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Add in 2 tablespoons sugar and the melted butter. Pulse until combined.
- Firmly press the crumb mixture into an even layer in the bottom of the buttered pan.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
- Reduce oven heat to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Make the filling. Whisk the egg yolks and 1/3 cup of sugar until it becomes pale in color. Mix in the ricotta, almond extract, vanilla extract, lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. In batches, slowly fold the egg whites into the ricotta mixture.
- Pour the filling into the springform pan on top of the prebaked almond crust. Spread to ensure an even layer of filling all the way around the pan.
- Bake approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, until deep golden color around the edges.
- Let cool.
- Gently run a knife around the edge of the pan. Remove springform.
- Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Photos by Renato Ghio