This Italian ricotta pie recipe has a delicately flavored creamy ricotta filling beautifully encased in a sweet pie dough that's buttery, light and flaky. It's a classic dessert in Italian households, especially during Easter and the holiday season. The best part? You can easily make it at home with just a few simple ingredients.
Italian ricotta pie is one of those recipes that perfectly embodies the concept Italian cooking. It takes just a few humble ingredients and transforms them into a delicious and comforting dish.
It's super popular at Italian bakeries and amongst Italian home cooks, where everyone has their own version of the classic recipe. It's commonly served at Christmas and especially at Easter, but it's perfect for celebrating Thanksgiving, too!
Ricotta cheese is obviously the star of the show, and it's one of my all time favorite ingredients. I love it whipped on bruschetta, folded into soft scrambled eggs, baked into a rich ricotta cheesecake and dolloped on top of homemade Italian meatballs when I serve them with Sunday sauce.
I love the light, yet creamy texture ricotta adds to this pie filling that you just can't get from other cheeses. I add a little bit of sour cream for a smooth tang, plus lots of vanilla extract, a little bit of lemon for brightness, cinnamon to warm it up and a generous pinch of salt to bring out all the flavors.
My ricotta pie is flavored very simply so the delicate richness of the ricotta really comes through. I also use a single crust for my ricotta pie, since it's easier, but a double crust can be added on top for an even more authentic ricotta pie!
Why this recipe works
- This recipe is simple yet flavorful. The combination of homemade ricotta, sweet pie dough, sour cream, sugar, and lemon creates a perfect balance of flavors.
- Making your own ricotta adds a touch of authenticity (and the best flavor possible!).
- The addition of lemon brings a refreshing zing to the rich and creamy filling.
- A classic dessert enjoyed at local Italian bakeries (and now at home!).
- This is the perfect Italian dessert for the holidays or entertaining guests.
- Ricotta Cheese: Using good quality ricotta cheese is essential to the success of this recipe. You can use homemade ricotta cheese, which is easy to make and adds a special touch. If using store bought, look for impastata ricotta, which has been strained and blended to be extra thick and smooth, and can be found at Italian markets. If using ricotta from the grocery store, you must strain it first so that it's nice and thick.
- Vanilla extract: The vanilla extract adds depth of flavor and enhances the sweetness of the pie. Be sure to use pure vanilla extract; I like to make my own vanilla extract at home, but store-bought works well too.
- Sour cream: The addition of sour cream adds a tangy richness to the pie and helps create a smooth, creamy filling.
- Lemon: The fresh lemon juice and zest add a bright, citrusy note to the pie. Make sure you're using fresh lemons for the best flavor.
- Pasta Frolla: This is the traditional sweet Italian shortcrust dough used to make pies and crostate in Italy. You always have the option to use your favorite homemade pie crust recipe or store-bought for convenience.
*Full ingredient list with quantities is in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Rolling pin - You'll need a rolling pin to roll out the pie dough.
- Bench Scraper - An essential tool whenever you're working with pastry dough.
- Electric mixer - You'll need an electric mixer to mix the filling ingredients together. If you don't have one, you can mix it by hand with a whisk.
- Rubber spatula - A rubber spatula is great for scraping down the sides of the bowl when mixing in the filling ingredients.
- Pie tin - To make this ricotta pie, you'll need a standard-size 9-inch pie tin, but I recommend using a deep dish pie plate, as the pie filling will be quite high.
Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees F.
1) Grab the cold dough and place it on a workspace that's lightly dusted with flour. Dust your rolling pin and the dough, then roll it out to fit a 9-inch deep dish pie plate (about 11 inches).
2) Transfer the dough to the pie plate and tuck any loose edges under, giving it a gentle press to fit. Stick the crust in the freezer while you whip up the filling.
3) Using an electric mixer, whip the ricotta, sour cream, and sugar for 2-3 minutes until it's light and fluffy (it'll still be a bit grainy).
4) Beat in the flour, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Then, add the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is fully mixed in before adding the next.
5) Take the pie crust out of the oven and pour in the filling, smoothing out the top.
6) Give the top a dusting of cinnamon, then pop it in the oven for about 50 minutes, or until the crust is a lovely golden brown and the center is mostly set with just a little jiggle.
7) Once it's done, take it out of the oven and let it cool. Then, transfer it to the refrigerator to chill completely for about 5-6 hours or overnight.
When you're ready to indulge, slice it into wedges and serve with extra whipped cream on top.
Tips for success
- If using store bought ricotta, first drain it in a fine mesh strainer lined with paper towels or cheesecloth, over top of another bowl, in the refrigerator overnight. It allows the ricotta to drain its liquid and get nice and thick, which will prevent the pie from being runny or getting soggy.
- Before you roll out your pasta frolla, let your pie dough chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This will help prevent shrinkage.
- Place the rolled-out pie crust in the freezer for 10 minutes to hold its shape before baking.
- Change up the flavor by adding some almond extract, orange zest, mini chocolate chips, or other flavorings if you choose.
- You'll know the baked pie is set if it only jiggles a tiny bit when you shake it gently. It will continue to set and firm up as it cools. Overbaking will result in a dry, crumbly pie filling.
- If your crust is browning too quickly, cover the edges with foil or use a pie shield.
- Make sure to let the pie chill completely in the refrigerator for several hours before slicing into it. This allows the filling to be set properly and makes for cleaner slices.
This Italian ricotta pie is incredibly versatile when it comes to serving. It can be enjoyed cold straight from the refrigerator, or if you prefer, leave it at room temperature for a while before serving for a softer texture.
Complement the rich and creamy flavors of the pie by topping each slice with fresh, seasonal berries and/or a generous dollop of whipped cream. These additions provide a burst of freshness and an additional layer of creaminess that fits perfectly with the overall profile of the ricotta pie.
When it comes to drinks, this Italian dessert goes great with either coffee, espresso (or affogato - hot espresso poured over gelato) or tea. The bitterness of both beverages complements and brings out the sweet, creamy flavors of the pie, creating a perfectly balanced dessert experience.
Ricotta pie and cheesecake are similar in many ways. Ricotta cheesecake is more dense becuase it's typically made with a mixture of cream cheese and ricotta cheese, while ricotta pie is a bit lighter since it's only made with ricotta.
In addition, Italian ricotta cheesecake usually doesn't have a crust, while ricotta pie is always baked into a sweet pie crust, usually made from pasta frolla.
The eggs are a crucial ingredient in this recipe, as they provide the custard-like texture of the filling.
However, if you find that your ricotta pie is tasting too "eggy," it may be due to overbaking. The filling should still jiggle a bit in the center when it's done baking, which will create a nice smooth custardy texture.
While homemade ricotta will give you the best results for this Italian Ricotta Pie, you can certainly use store-bought ricotta cheese. Just be sure to drain any excess liquid from the cheese before using it in the recipe.
To prevent a soggy crust, chill your pie dough before baking and double-check the dough so there are no holes once it's been added to the pie tin.
Yes, this Italian ricotta pie recipe can be made up to 3 days before serving. Simply store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Any leftover ricotta pie can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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