Ricotta Cheesecake from Rome’s Jewish Quarter

This tender ricotta cheesecake, sometimes referred to as a pudding (budino di ricotta), started out as a pancake. Food historian Clifford Wright notes that Sicilian Jews took their traditions of making and cooking with ricotta to Rome when they were expelled from Sicily in the fifteenth century and a version of this recipe came with them. You can still find this delicious dessert in Rome’s Jewish quarter in its simplest form—eggs, sugar, homemade ricotta and cinnamon. In our recipe, we separate the eggs and fold in the beaten whites, which makes the cake even more delicate.–Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hircheimer

LC Pretty and Puddinglike Note

This pretty, puddinglike cheesecake took us a little by surprise, being, well, prettier and more puddinglike than most. Not that we’re complaining. Besides, we find that a pretty darn good way to navigate life is to trust that when you encounter something that looks like cheesecake and tastes like cheesecake, chances are it’s cheesecake. And those cracks? Pshaw. This lovely creature is so light and airy, cracks are inevitable. Look at it this way: They add to the homemade quality of it all–if, that is, you made your own ricotta to grace the cake. Which you did, right? Right?

Ricotta Cheesecake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups fresh whole milk ricotta, preferably homemade
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier
  • 1 lemon, preferably organic, zested

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (176ºC). Use the 1 tablespoon of butter to coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan, and then dust the pan with the bread crumbs.


  • 2. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy, about 5 minutes. Process the ricotta, Grand Marnier, and zest in a food processor until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, fold the ricotta into the egg mixture until the batter is well mixed.


  • 3. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with a whisk or an electric mixer fitted with a whisk until frothy. Add a little squeeze of lemon juice and continue to beat until the whites are stiff but not dry. Fold 1/3 of the whites into the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites in two batches. (Take care not to overmix, which would cause the batter to deflate.)


  • 4. Pour the ricotta batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cheesecake until golden and firm to the touch, 40 to 50 minutes. (You may need to cover it loosely with foil to avoid over browning.) Remove the cake from the oven and transfer the pan to a rack to cool. (It will sink as it cools.) The cake is best served warm or at room temperature. (It loses a little flavor when it’s refrigerated.)


Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Anna Scott

Mar 23, 2012

What a delicious and unique version of a cheesecake. This recipe turned out so much better than I expected, and our dinner guests loved it, too. The description of this cheesecake was right on–it was definitely more of a ‘pudding cake’ than anything else. I loved the consistency of the ricotta cheese mixture, and the cinnamon and citrus flavors were a delicious combination. (I tasted the batter before baking the cake and was blown away by this flavor combo! It was even better baked!) It took about 50 minutes to cook in my oven on 350 degrees, not 40. The middle of the cake was still very watery after 40 minutes. I covered the top of the cake with foil for the last 10 minutes of cooking so it wouldn’t get too brown. I used store-bought ricotta cheese, but would like to try it again with homemade to see if that is as tasty! I love trying new versions of old classics and truly thought this was delicious!

Testers Choice
Lisa O.

Mar 23, 2012

This is a lovely light version of traditional cheesecake or even ricotta cheesecake. I served it after a fairly rich dinner of braised short ribs and no one felt overstuffed! The recipe works just as written, no surprises, and I was very glad it said the cake would sink as it cools, otherwise I probably would have panicked when it did. It is not the prettiest cake ever, but was well received by all who ate it. I served it with a dollop of peach preserves and crème fraîche on the side, and that was a nice touch.

Testers Choice
Deb Russell

Mar 23, 2012

I was so excited to make this, as we all love cheesecake. It was very easy to prepare. I don’t think it needs the cinnamon, but that is merely an opinion. I prefer to use vanilla essence, and I am going to try it again. It will be interesting to see how fresh it stays, but it was very delicious yesterday. I cooked it five minutes less than stated, but I am still playing with a new oven.

Testers Choice
Sita Krishnaswamy

Mar 23, 2012

This was the most amazing, pudding-like cheesecake I have ever made. I used amaretto in place of the Grand Marnier. The cake was light, and the amaretto worked well with lemon zest. I served it with warm apricot preseves and vanilla ice cream. Decadent. The recipe works as written, although my cake was done ten minutes before the recomended time.

Comments
Comments
  1. Andrea says:

    What would be a good substitute for Grand Marnier? Also, for those with gluten issues, would almond meal instead of flour be a good substitute?

    • Brenda Carleton says:

      As the amount in the recipe is only 3 T you could substitute almond meal for the cake flour. I would try one of two ways: 1 T coconut flour and 1 T tapioca or very fine white rice flour OR 2 T almond meal instead of 3 as it requires more liquid adjustments in recipes than most others. Almond meal is not as fine as almond or cake flour. The result could possibly be a bit grainy and denser – just something to be aware of. However, the almond would certainly complement the other flavours in the recipe.

      If the amount called for in the recipe was greater I certainly would look at adjusting the other ingredients more. Thankfully 3 T is a small amount.

      If you do use almond meal in the recipe (and you should go ahead with your great idea keeping in mind possible slight textural changes!) would you please post the results? Thanks!

      • Andrea says:

        Thank you Brenda for the flour substitution measurements. I promise to report back when I make it. And thanks Vick for the Amaretto suggestion. By the way, is this from the same bakery in the Ghetto in Rome with the pizza dolce? They’re famous for delicious but often burnt on the top desserts? I love that place!

        • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

          We’re looking into the exact bakery this recipe seeks to emulate, Andrea. Back with you as soon as we hear…

  2. Vicki Ventura says:

    Reminds me of my godmother’s ricotta torte recipe. She used Amaretto in hers. Andrea, if you’re trying to get away from alcohol, not sure what you could use. Even vanilla extract has alcohol in it. Although I’ve never heard of a recipe using that much vanilla.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Oooooh, we’re LOVING the notion of Amaretto, Vicki. Many, many thanks. In fact, I just asked some of our recipe testers if they’d mind working a little ‘maretto magic with this recipe, just to be sure. I can’t imagine it not being lovely beyond belief. Stay tuned…

  3. Louise Hyson says:

    Thank you, thank you – I have been hoping to find this recipe for a month or more but couldn’t get out to check the book at Barnes & Noble and the Raleigh library doesn’t have it – can’t wait to try it.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      You’re very, very welcome. We think you’ll find it’s worth the wait, Louise. And we can’t wait to hear how much you love it…

  4. Michael M says:

    It is very pudding-like.

    When I spent some time in Rome, I had a version that contained chocolate and had a semolina flour crust. Here are two pictures.

    I would love to find this recipe.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Anyone know of this particular ricotta cheesecake that Michael M. is seeking?

    • Hi Mark, I’m actually going by the bakery today, will try to wiggle out their recipe. The filling is not so hard, 1.5 cups ricotta, only one egg, 1/2 cup sugar and 3/4 cup broken chocolate. Just mix together, without separating eggs. I use this filling to make a great ricotta crostata all the time, but have never attempted the Jewish version you sent a photo of. Here is my version, with cherries instead of chocolate: http://www.elizabethminchilliinrome.com/2010/06/cherries-in-todi_13.html
      But my crust is very short, and definitely won’t be suitable for the Jewish version.

      • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

        Elizabeth, thank you! Definitely the most magical thing to have happened in a while…thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • Amelia Luongo says:

      Michael M. I loved viewing your photos!!!! It made me so happy to see those photos and your fun with your wife or girlfriend. It makes me want to go there again. The last time I was there was so long ago and my photos were destroyed. It would be so wonderful to get the recipe for the chocolate ricotta cake in the photo as well as the chicchetti!! That chocolate ricotta cake has to be the best ricotta cake, ever. If anyone can identify the larger chicchetti item with what may be a ceci puree?? Michael, would you recall the flavors, or the name of that larger cichetti item? The other items look like arancini and fried calamari. I had just bought some Italian rice to try making some arancini a few days before seeing your photo. That fettucine con pecorino e guanciale! I’m going to try making the fettucine that thick, too. Thank you for sharing those photos. If anyone should get any of those recipes in the future, I wish you would send them to me. And thank you Elizabeth Menchilli, I can’t wait to try your recipe!!!! This was such fun! t has been such a lovely way to start my day. How kind of everyone to share. Thank you, Renee Schettler Rossi!

  5. Mark Joseph says:

    This looks fantastic! Can’t wait to try it!

  6. Lovely recipe! The original cheesecake (which is definitely heavier) at the “Jewish bakery” in Rome’s ghetto is flavored with either chunks of chocolate of swirls of sour cherry jam. I’m thinking either would work well with this lightened version of the cheesecake.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Elizabeth, many thanks for sharing this indispensable knowledge! Lovely suggestions, and yes, I think you’re absolutely correct, either would be stunning. So appreciate you chiming in…

  7. Lola says:

    I really want to try this recipe, but religious reasons prevent me from using alcohol. Yes, I know vanilla extract contains alcohol.
    Would there be any substitution for the Grand Marnier?

  8. Anja says:

    Just baked it but left out the lemon, instead I substituted dark rum for the Grand Manier and added more cinnamon. Smells sooooo good, can’t wait to have a piece once it cools a little. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

*

Daily Subscription

Enter your email address and get all of our updates sent to your inbox the moment they're posted. Be the first on your block to be in the know.

Preview daily e-mail

Weekly Subscription

Hate tons of emails? Do you prefer info delivered in a neat, easy-to-digest (pun intended) form? Then enter your email address for our weekly newsletter.

Preview weekly e-mail