When we visited Sicily the first time it was almost like a whole new world of Italian food. If you’ve traveled to Italy you may have experienced that each region has their own way of creating food ~ take pasta for example. In Bari (Pulgia region in Southern Italy), orecchiette is common. The name comes from its shape, which resembles a small ear.
Walking down the neighborhood streets of town you will see women working the dough in their kitchens or drying the finished orecchiette on screen trays in alleyways. You won’t typically see this is other regions of Italy.
So it was a gastronomic treat for me to become familiar with the specialities in the regions in Sicily, the unique foods, and the way they were prepared.
Cheesecake (torta di ricotta) is one of my husband’s favorite desserts. With fresh ricotta hot off the stove, it seemed like a great recipe to make today. Since I’m half Sicilian I owe it to my ancestors to make it once in a while, right?
It is said in some historical journals that Sicilian cheesecake was born from a fascination with sugar, not cheese. Interesting fact, sugar was not cultivated in Sicily during the Roman era, it was brought by Arabs and took root in the tenth century – when sweet inventions using sugar started appearing.
Side note – when we visited Modena, Italy last year we learned that people used a balsamic vinegar called “soba” as a sweeting agent before sugar was common in Italy. I brought some back from our trip and it crystallized in the bottle similar to honey. It is great drizzled on vanilla ice cream by the way. Check out my post on balsamic vinegars.
There are many great recipes out there for cheesecake, and this Sicilian version is very easy. No crust to make either.
You can get very creative with this recipe, substituting Limoncello or orangecello for the vanilla extract ~ oh yeah ~
- 1 pound fresh ricotta cheese (store brand is fine)
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon orange or lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Dash of salt
- Stir ricotta in a large mixing bowl, smoothing it with a rubber spatula. I used homemade so I swirled a whisk a few times to smooth the curds a bit.
- Mix sugar and flour together and add to ricotta.
- Add eggs one at a time.
- Blend in the rest of the ingredients.
- Pour batter into a butter and flour coated pan.
- Bake in a 300 degree oven in the middle rack for about an hour. It should be golden color and fairly firm when done.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- Serve immediately (it's amazing served warm with a little orangecello or limoncello) or cover and chill until ready to serve.
- Using the orange zest gives the cheesecake a slight orange flavor, very mild. If you prefer lemon, zest with lemon and use lemon ricotta.
- Original recipe suggested using a springform pan. I don't have one so I just used a small cake pan and it seemed to work okay.
- Serving sizes listed above are smallish. Recipe can easily be doubled for more servings.