For me, Easter is not complete without a slice of ricotta pie. I go weak in the knees when I think of this dessert and ever since spending time in Sicily, have added it to my own basket of Easter traditions. The Sicilians love their ricotta desserts – from the infamous Sicilian cassata to the heavenly cannoli. According to Clifford Wright’s website, ‘cassata was early on a springtime cake traditionally made as an Easter specialty by the monastery nuns or for Purim by Sicilian Jews. Cassata was so delicious and seductive that as late as 1574 the diocese of Mazara del Vallo had to prohibit its making at the monastery during the holy week because the nuns preferred to bake and eat it than pray.’ Hey, I get it. I drool at the thought of fresh ricotta. I never would have made a good nun but add in the temptation of fresh ricotta and I would have been in more trouble than the Flying Nun.
There are many versions of this pie. In the past, I have made it more in the form of an actual pie but this year opted for a larger version – almost a cheesecake. I also kept the sugar to a minimum but if you like your desserts sweeter, feel free to add in more sugar. For the dough, I used a simple ‘pasta frolla’ or pastry dough that comes together in about 30 seconds in the food processor.
Sicilian Ricotta Pie
For the dough (pasta frolla):
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), chilled and diced into small piece
1/3 cup sugar
A pinch of salt
Zest of 1/2 lemon
A few tablespoons of cold water
For the filling:
3 pounds ricotta, drained well if store bought
1/2 cup sugar (use 3/4 cup if you like your desserts sweeter)
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Lightly butter a 9″ springform pan and set aside.
Make the pie crust:
1. Put all ingredients (eggs, flour, butter, sugar, salt) except the water into the bowl of a food processor or large bowl. If using a food processor, pulse the ingredients until a ball forms. If too dry, add the water tablespoon by tablespoon until the dough comes together. If mixing by hand, mix all ingredients with your hands until the dough comes together. Add water tablespoon by tablespoon if too dry until the dough comes together. Knead until smooth – about 30 seconds or so.
2. Gather the dough into a ball. Flatten and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Prepare the filling:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a circle that will fit in the prepared pan. Keep the dough as thin as possible. Roll around the rolling pin and unwrap into the prepared pan. Cut off any excess dough around the top. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and chill until ready to fill.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the ricotta and sugar until smooth. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg. Add in the vanilla and cinnamon. Stir in the mini chocolate chips.
4. Pour the filling into the chilled shell.
5. Bake the pie for about 45 minutes or until set in the middle. Cool, dust with cinnamon and serve!
6. Buon appetito!