Luxurious, light, and easy to make, my creamy Sicilian cheesecake is perfect for desserts, holidays, and every kind of celebration.
This updated and improved recipe was published on November 27, 2015.
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Why you’ll love this recipe
My Sicilian ricotta cheesecake recipe is delicious and easy to make. You might have heard that baked cheesecakes need a water bath - and most do, but not my recipe! You can put this cheesecake directly into the oven and look forward to a perfect result - every time.
There is also no need to make pastry because we will make and use a really easy crushed cookie crumb to line the base of the springform pan. Just two ingredients and you will have the very best cheesecake base you’ve ever tasted!
My cheesecake recipe is also lighter than a classic baked cheesecake - thanks to the magic of ricotta and mascarpone. Light, velvety, rich, and creamy - perfect for every occasion.
For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card bottom of the page.
The base of my Sicilian cheesecake is simple and only requires two ingredients:
- Cookie crumbs - You can use almost any brand or type of cookie, but my recommendation is to use shortbread, graham crackers, or another plain cookie. A little warning: if you use a flavored cookie, it could overpower the delicious filling.
- Butter - Just half a cup of butter, melted, to help bind the cookie crumbs together. The butter also helps prevent the cheesecake sticking to the base of the springform pan.
For the Sicilian ricotta cheesecake filling, you will need:
- Ricotta - Of course! Please use whole milk ricotta in this recipe, if you can, because it will help give the cheesecake the richness and a little tang that we loooooove. If you bought too much, you might be wondering can you freeze ricotta cheese? Definitely yes!
- Eggs - As usual, I recommend using large, free range eggs because I prefer the taste.
- Mascarpone - This delectable Italian cream cheese will deliver a velvety creaminess that other cream cheeses can only dream about! Pronounced mass-cah-POH-nay, this rich and creamy cream cheese is delicious in both sweet and savory dishes, and is wonderful as a thickening agent. It will help to thicken the filling of our cheesecake.
- Superfine white sugar - Also known as castor sugar, this superfine sugar dissolves easily and mixes well - exactly what we’re looking for.
- Dark chocolate - You can use either an eating chocolate or a baking chocolate in this recipe. I usually use eating chocolate, but whatever you have on hand will be fabulous. Just remember to only just blend it into the filling so that you will still have delicious little ‘pockets’ of chocolate in the finished cheesecake.
- Cornstarch - Sometimes called cornflour in the UK and Australia, we’re using it in this recipe to thicken and firm the filling mixture during the baking and cooling processes.
- Marsala wine - Marsala is a sweet Italian fortified wine, sourced from the Marsala region in Sicily (hence using it in my Sicilian cheesecake recipe!). It is available in various sweetnesses, so the variety you choose will impact the finished result. But don’t worry - all varieties are smooth and sumptuous!
- Orange zest - The orange zest in this recipe beautifully complements both the Marsala and the dark chocolate to create a taste sensation.
- Cinnamon - Is there anything that isn’t improved by a little ground cinnamon??
The step by step instructions below refer to the numbered photo collage above.
Preheat your oven to 350ºF/180ºC. Butter a 9 inch/ 23cm springform pan with a removable base. Make sure you butter the pan well so that you don’t have any trouble removing the springform pan after the cheesecake is baked and cooled.
- Combine the cookie crumbs with melted butter in a medium sized bowl. Spread evenly onto the base of the prepared pan using your fingertips or the back of a spoon until well compressed and flattened. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
- Process the ricotta and sugar in a food processor until smooth.
- Add the eggs and whizz until well combined. Add the cornstarch (cornflour), Marsala wine, orange zest, and cinnamon. Process to mix well.
- Add the mascarpone then pulse to just combine.
- Add the dark chocolate and use a spoon or spatula to stir in lightly.
- Pour the filling mixture into the prepared base and smooth the surface.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the sides are puffed up, the middle is still a little jiggly, and the surface has browned a bit.
Turn the oven off, but leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door ajar for 1 hour. You can use a wooden spoon to hold the door open just a little.
After 1 hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven and let it finish cooling on the kitchen bench. (But be warned: do not let your hungry children or partner near the cheesecake with a spoon at this stage or you will return to find your cheesecake all gone!)
When it is cool, refrigerate your cheesecake overnight (ideally) or at least for a few hours so that it can chill and set completely.
For best results, remove your delicious Sicilian ricotta cheesecake from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.
From toppings to ingredient replacements, I’ve got several variation suggestions for you.
To start with, if you don’t have or can’t find Marsala wine, you have a few options to replace it with:
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence.
- 2 tablespoons of creme de cacao.
- 2 tablespoons of Strega liqueur. Strega is an Italian herbal liqueur made from about 70 different herbs including mint and fennel, so it has quite a unique taste. If you use Strega, try garnishing the top of your finished baked cheesecake with a small sprig of fresh mint.
You could use lemon zest instead of orange zest. Lemon is usually a slightly stronger flavor, not quite as sweet, and more, well, lemony!
If you’re keen to give your Sicilian cheesecake with mascarpone a hint of floral, try adding 2 teaspoons of either orange blossom water or rose water.
My family and I enjoy cheesecake with nothing more than a sprinkling of powdered sugar on top, but if you would like a topping - or if you need to cover a crack - please look under the ‘Serving Suggestions’ heading for some ideas.
I would love to know if you try any of my variations; please leave me a little note below to tell me about your baking experience, if you used any variations, and what your preferences are.
Tips for Success & FAQs
I have a few tips for you that apply not only to my Sicilian cheesecake, but for any baked cheesecake:
Firstly, if you have a food processor, use it rather than a stand mixture so as not to aerate the mixture too much.
Secondly, just prior to baking, tap the cheesecake pan gently on the bench to remove any possible air bubbles. Don’t tap too strongly otherwise the mixture will come up the sides and you'll get an uneven cheesecake. If the bubbles rise to the top but don't burst, rub the top of the cheesecake with the back of a spoon to burst them.
Thirdly, avoid overbaking your cheesecake. You can check for doneness at the minimum baking time by gently shaking the pan. If the cheesecake is done, the edge should be slightly puffed. The cheesecake will be mostly set except for a small area in the center that will be soft and jiggly. It is completely normal at this stage. DO NOT insert a knife into the center as this may cause the cheesecake to crack during cooling.
The best way to deal with a cracked cheesecake is to cover up the crack. You can do this with a topping like raspberry compote or cherry sauce, lemon curd or mascarpone cream, passionfruit coulis or chocolate curls.
Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese containing a significantly higher butterfat content (about 75%) than regular cream cheese (about 50%). It is the butterfat content that gives mascarpone a velvety mouthfeel and creamier texture than regular cream cheese.
You can successfully freeze cheesecake for up to 1 month. Cut cooled cheesecake into slices, then wrap each individual slice with plastic wrap, then aluminium foil, and then store in an airtight container.
I love Sicilian cheesecake with nothing more than a light dusting of powdered sugar on top, but if you would like to try an alternative - or if you need to cover a crack - I have a few suggestions.
You can add a fruit-based topping like raspberry or blueberry compote, passionfruit or strawberry coulis, cherry sauce, lemon curd, or even mango ice cream. Alternatively, try adding some fresh sliced fruit. Or some mascarpone cream and delicate chocolate curls!
Sicilian Cheesecake Recipe
- 1¾ cups (6oz/185 grams) cookie crumbs see notes
- ½ cup (4oz/115 grams) unsalted butter melted
- 2 pounds (32oz/900 grams) whole milk ricotta
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup mascarpone
- 1 cup superfine (castor) white sugar
- ½ cup (2oz/60 grams) chopped semisweet dark chocolate
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour)
- 2 tablespoons Marsala wine
- 3 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC. Butter a 9inch/23cm springform pan with a removable base.
- Combine the cookie crumbs with melted unsalted butter in a medium bowl.
- Spread evenly onto the base of the prepared pan then press with fingertips or the back of a spoon until well compressed and flattened.
- Refrigerate while preparing the filling.
- Process the ricotta and sugar in the food processor until smooth.
- Add the eggs and whizz until well combined.
- Add the mascarpone, cornstarch (cornflour), Marsala wine, orange zest and cinnamon. Process to mix well. Don’t over mix or the mascarpone can split.
- Put in the dark chocolate then pulse until just barely combined without breaking up the chocolate too much.
- Pour into the prepared base and smooth the surface.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the sides are puffed up, the middle is still a little jiggly and the surface is browned.
- Turn the oven off and leave the cheese cake in the oven for 1 hour with the door ajar. Use a wooden spoon to hold the door open just a little.
- Remove from the cheesecake from the oven and let it cool completely. Then refrigerate overnight or for a few hours to chill and set completely.
- For best results, remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.
- For the base, use shortbread, graham or other plain cookie.
- If you have a food processor, use it rather than a stand mixture so as not to aerate the mixture too much.
- Before baking, tap the cheesecake pan gently on the bench to remove any possible air bubbles.
- Don't overbake your cheesecake - see the tips above for checking doneness. Never insert a knife into the center as this may cause the cheesecake to crack during cooling.
Nutritional Information Per Serving
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.