This Italian Ricotta Pie is an amazing ricotta dessert that is light and creamy with a delicate lemony flavor! Perfect for spring entertaining and the ideal sweet ending to a traditional Italian meal!
Why you will love this recipe!
There’s absolutely no reason why you wouldn’t fall in love with this Ricotta Pie! The tender pie crust is filled with a creamy sweet ricotta filling which has a wonderful scent of lemon. A slice of this pie completes any meal. Not too sweet and not too rich, it’s absolutely the Goldilocks of pies!
Like all Italians, I adore desserts made with whole milk ricotta! Ricotta is not as heavy and cloying as cream cheese or heavy cream but still has enough creaminess. Some of my favorites ricotta desserts include this Sicilian cheesecake, pastiera Napoletana and simple sweet ricotta recipe.
The lattice top might make you think you’ve seen this before and you’re almost right. It’s similar to my Strawberry Crostata. However, it’s definitely up to you if you want to add the lattice. If you bake the pie without the lattice, it will still be wonderful!
Like all good crostata recipes, it relies on a good pie crust! Italian sweet shortcrust dough is known as pasta frolla. Tender and flavorsome, this dough is used to make all sorts of pies, tarts and even makes tasty cookies! Pasta frolla is easily made in the food processor (or by hand) and rolls out like a dream. Any cracks or splits can be patched without any trouble. The best part is that I never have trouble with crust shrinkage.
Enough about the crust (even though it is super amazing!) but let's talk about the ricotta filling. Oh my goodness, the flavor that the lemon zest gives this pie is to die for! Plus the filling is creamy and smooth due to the little bit of heavy cream added into the filling. I like to add a little extra flavor in the form of ground cinnamon, vanilla and a dash of rum. None of which is overpowering, just a subtle hint of something in the background.
Also known as “crostata di ricotta” or Sicilian ricotta pie, this recipe for Ricotta Pie is a classic addition to the family Easter table but also loved year round. And the fresh citrus flavor makes it a winner whatever the occasion.
Table of Contents
- All purpose plain flour - For tender pie crust, use a flour that has a low protein content.
- Baking powder - Just a little in the pie dough makes the crust light and flaky.
- Salt - Even though I’m asking you to use unsalted butter, we do need a pinch of salt in the crust to enhance the flavor.
- Unsalted butter - I prefer unsalted butter but if all you have is salted use that. However you must leave out the extra pinch of salt otherwise the crust will be too salty.
- Sugar - What would dessert be without sugar? In this case, white granulated sugar is preferred. As always, my go-to is superfine sugar (castor sugar) but if you can’t find it, regular sugar will be fine. If you like brown sugar, you could try that though it would be a different flavor. This Italian recipe is a bit sweeter than some but if you prefer your desserts less sweet reduce the sugar in the filling to ½ cup.
- Eggs - Free range eggs are my top choice but use whatever you have. Keep in mind that the best taste comes from quality ingredients.
- Whole milk ricotta cheese - There’s no need to watch the fat content here. After all, this ricotta pie recipe uses lots of butter and eggs along with some cream. Plus the filling will be creamier and richer with whole milk ricotta. If you've bought too much ricotta, you'll be happy to know that you can freeze ricotta cheese easily.
- Heavy cream - I use cream that has about 35% fat content.
- Lemon - Only the zest is needed for this recipe and it adds an incredible fragrance to the pie. Very finely grated zest adds a lemony zing to the crust and filling. Be careful not to grate the white pith - it’s quite bitter. Don’t throw the rest of the lemon away, juice it and pop it into the freezer for when you make recipes like lemon curd or raspberry compote
- Ground cinnamon - The fragrance of ground cinnamon can’t be matched and it pairs wonderfully with ricotta. You’ll just use a little so that it doesn’t dominate. Be sure to replace spices regularly as they do go stale. To check, just rub a little between your fingers and taste and smell it. If you smell that typical cinnamon scent and the taste is a little sweet and spicy, then it’s all good. Typically, if stored in a sealed bottle it should last for a year before it loses its flavor and scent.
- Rum - I like to use dark rum. Omit it completely if you’d rather make an alcohol free ricotta pie.
- Vanilla extract - Use vanilla extract for the best flavor. Alternatively, half a teaspoon of vanilla paste or a scraped vanilla bean are both good substitutes. Vanilla essence won’t provide the same flavor.
The wonderful advantage of many desserts that use ricotta cheese is that you can play with the flavors. While I love the lemon flavors that make this ricotta pie taste freshness and Spring, there are many other flavors that will also taste amazing!
- Substitute the lemon zest for any other citrus like orange, lime or mandarin.
- Adding chocolate chips to the filling is delicious especially if you use orange zest instead of lemon zest.
- Instead of rum use marsala, grappa, anisette or your favorite liquor.
Both the filling and pie dough can be made a day in advance. Store both in the fridge if making ahead. If you don’t have a food processor, read on for how to make this ricotta pie without a food processor.
- Using a food processor, pulse the all purpose plain flour, baking powder, salt and butter until the mixture looks sandy and crumbly.
- With the processor off, add the sugar, egg and egg yolks.
- Process until the mixture starts to come together.
- Remove the dough from the food processor and use your hands to press it together into a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and pop into the fridge for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC. Prepare a 9 inch tart pan with a removable base by greasing with butter and dusting with flour. Alternatively, use a 9 inch pie plate that has been greased and floured in the same way.
- Roll out two thirds of the pie dough between two sheets on non-stick parchment and use it to line the prepared pan. Check the recipe card below for more information.
- Use a food processor to combine all the filling ingredients until smooth.
- Pour the filling into the base and level off.
- Roll out the remaining dough and scrapes. Cut into stripes and lay in a lattice pattern on top of the filling. Bake in a preheated oven for 40-45 minutes.
Tips for Success and FAQ’s
There are two components of this Italian Ricotta Pie - the crust and the filling which can both be made in advance. In fact, the pie dough can be frozen for up to 3 months. Just thaw in the fridge for a day before using to line the pan.
Lemon zest (or other citrus as suggested in the “Variations”) is essential to the overall taste of the ricotta pie. The citrus zing can’t be matched so please don’t omit it.
To make the crust, I find it easier to use a food processor. However, if you don’t have a food processor, simply chop the cold butter into small pieces (or coarsely grated) and rub into the all purpose plain flour, baking powder and salt with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs then mix in the sugar, egg and egg yolks to form a dough.
Be sure to chill the dough thoroughly to make it easier to handle. If the dough becomes warm and sticky, pop it back in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill. Cold pie dough is the key to success!
If the ricotta is watery, line a strainer with clean cheesecloth or strong paper towels. Place the strainer over a bowl and spoon the ricotta in. Let it drain for 30 minutes or so. Even up to an hour depending on how liquidy the ricotta was in the first place. It’s best to pop the bowl with the strainer in the fridge while the ricotta is draining.
The food processor is handy to make the filling as well. It can also be made by just whisking all the ingredients together though the filling may be a little grainy. To make the filling smoother, pass the ricotta through a fine sieve before making the filling.
I prefer to serve this ricotta cheese pie completely chilled rather than at room temperature. It will cut more cleanly and hold better when chilled. However, you might like to remove it from the fridge 30 minutes before serving so that the pie can come to a cool room temperature.
Yes! Ricotta can spoil quickly at room temperature. Once cooled, keep the pie in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.
This pie will be good for up to 5 days. Be sure to keep it well covered and refrigerated.
It probably can but I never have - it never lasts very long in our household!! Freezing may change the texture but it would still be a good way to save leftovers that you can’t eat within 5 days. Wrap well in plastic and pop into a sealable container. Freeze for up to 3 months.
This Ricotta Pie is excellent served just as it is with a light dusting of powdered sugar on top and a strong cup of coffee on the side. But if you’d like to step it up a notch, I have some suggestions for you.
More recipes like this
Cannoli Cake - everything you love about cannoli in a cake!!
Italian Tiramisu - the most amazing version you'll ever eat.
Torta Caprese - a dark and decadent Italian chocolate cake.
Italian Cream Puffs - my family recipe.
Ricotta Pie Recipe
- 1 tart pan (9 inch/23cm) with a removable base or 9 inch pie plate (23cm)
- 1 ¾ cups all purpose plain flour (224 grams)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 4 oz unsalted butter (113 grams)
- ¾ cup superfine white (castor) sugar (150 grams)
- 1 egg
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese (500 grams) drained if watery
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup superfine white (castor) sugar (150 grams)
- ½ cup heavy cream (120 mls)
- zest of one lemon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon dark rum (15 mls)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 mls)
- powdered sugar, berries or fruit sauce
To make the crust
- In a food processor, place the all purpose plain flour, baking powder, salt and butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add the sugar and egg and egg yolks then process until the mixture just starts to come together on the sides of the bowl. Remove and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC and butter and flour a 9inch/23cm tart pan with a removable base.
For the filling
- In a food processor, place all the filling ingredients and process to 1-2 minutes until well combined and smooth. Refrigerate until the crust is ready.
To assemble and bake the ricotta pie
- Divide the dough in two pieces - ⅔ and ⅓.
- Take the larger piece. Press it down to flatten and form a rough circle. Dust the pastry lightly with flour.
- Roll out it between two pieces of non-stick parchment paper until large enough to fit the tart pan. If the pastry is sticking, dust with a little more flour.
- Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and roll the pastry gently around the rolling pin. Lift and unroll into the pan. Pull up the pastry around the sides and encourage it to fall into the corners. Remove the parchment paper. Patch tears with excess pastry. Trim the edges level to the top of the pan.
- Pour the filling into the base. Spread and level the filling.
- With the scraps and the reserved dough, you’ll make a lattice pattern for the top. Add scraps of pastry to the leftover piece. Roll out between two sheets of parchment paper as before. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper the cut into strips
- Pour onto crust then tap down lightly a couple of times to remove any air pockets in the filling.
- Place the tart pan on a cookie sheet for easier transferring to the the oven.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes until golden brown. The middle will still be a little jiggly but that’s fine. The inside needs to be 160ºF/70ºC when ready.
- Allow to cool then refrigerate before serving. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
- Pie dough can be frozen for up to 3 months
- To make the pie dough without a food processor - simply chop the cold butter into small pieces (or coarsely grated) and rub into the all purpose plain flour, baking powder and salt with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs then mix in the sugar, egg and egg yolks to form a dough.
- Chill the dough thoroughly. If the dough becomes warm and difficult to handle, put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Drain the ricotta if watery.
- If making the filling by hand, pass the ricotta through a fine sieve to make it smoother.
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.