Have you started planning your Easter dessert yet? Easter is one of my favorite holidays for the plethora of traditional foods that are found on most tables in Italian or Italian-American homes – from appetizers to main course to dessert. See the end of this post for more ideas. One of my all-time favorite Easter desserts is this ricotta pie, and there are endless variations, including one with the addition of chocolate chips. I have nothing against that – I’d happily eat a couple of slices — but for Easter, give me a pure, unadulterated ricotta pie with a hint of orange – the Italian version of cheesecake – and one that’s very popular in my household.
Feel free to use your favorite homemade pastry crust recipe or a store-bought one. I relied on Trader Joe’s this time, but it can be a bit fiddly to use since it has a tendency to split when you’re placing it in the pie plate. No problem, just press the pieces back together. Prick the pie crust and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
Make sure you drain your ricotta (full-fat only please) thoroughly. I line a sieve with paper towels, add the ricotta, cover with plastic wrap, then put a weight on top and leave it in the fridge overnight.
Look how much liquid came out. If you don’t take this step, you risk having a soggy bottom crust.
I started out with three pounds of ricotta and was left with a little over four cups after draining overnight.
Mix with the orange and lemon peels as well as the rest of the ingredients. If you don’t have orange blossom water, use some orange flavored extract. Mix it all well then place into the prepared crust.
Cover with lattice strips and crimp edges. It’s easier to weave the lattice strips if you cut them out and place them in the freezer for a bit before placing on top of the pie.
Bake and let it cool thoroughly before serving.
Buona Pasqua tutti!
Here are a few more ideas for Easter dinner:
Ricotta Broccoli Rape Torta – This is a dish my son makes as an appetizer for Easter, using broccoli rape. No, that spelling is not a mistake, it is rape in Italian, while most Americans spell it broccoli rabe or raab. Any way you spell it, it’s delicious, and a lighter alternative to the heavier, meat-laden pizza piena.
Braided Easter Bread – This bread, studded with hard boiled eggs, is braided with soppressata, olives and cheese, and would be perfect with drinks before dinner.
Grilled Leg of Lamb – Marinated and cooked on the grill, this lamb recipe from Julia Child, is tender and full of flavor.
Honey Baked Ham with roasted grapes – This recipe will make you forget those prepared hams purchased from franchise ham shops – and it’s so easy to make too.
Neapolitan Pastiera – This traditional Southern Italian dessert is made with ricotta and wheat berries.
Colomba Pasquale – It wouldn’t be Easter in most Italian households without this Easter dove, which you can make at home too.
Coconut covered lamb cake – A childhood favorite, I continue the tradition with the same cake mold my mother used more than sixty years ago.
chocolate lamb cake – Why not give equal time to the black sheep? This cake, decorated with crushed cookie crumbs, will please the chocolate lovers in your family.
coconut cream Easter eggs – These are a weakness of mine, which is why I can’t make them more than once every few years. Otherwise, I’d end up eating dozens of them.
Perfect hard boiled eggs – And if you don’t make any of the above recipes, you’ll probably make hard-boiled eggs at some point. If you’ve ever struggled with peeling them, here’s a primer that will help you avoid frustration.
Buona Pasqua a tutti!
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- Two of your favorite homemade or store-purchased pie crusts (one for bottom and one for the lattice top)
- 4 cups drained full-fat ricotta cheese
- (I started out with 3 pounds of ricotta from the supermarket and there were more than 4 cups when it was all drained.)
- 6 eggs
- ¾ cup sugar
- juice of one orange (a little less than ¼ cup)
- grated rind of two oranges
- grated rind of one lemon
- ½ teaspoon orange blossom water (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
- Drain the ricotta cheese overnight in the refrigerator.
- To do this, I place a paper towel in a sieve, put the ricotta cheese in the sieve, then cover with a piece of plastic wrap and finally, a heavy weight.
- Roll out the pie crust and place it in a deep-dish pie pan.
- Prick the crust with a fork.
- Place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes while you roll the lattice.
- Roll out the other pie crust on a cutting board or something that will fit in the freezer.
- Cut nine lattice strips and place the whole thing, cutting board and all, in the freezer.
- Make sure you can keep it flat.
- This technique of putting the strips in the freezer for a few minutes will help keep when the lattice strips from breaking apart when weaving them on the top after you have placed the filling inside.
- Beat the eggs gently (but don't beat too heavily or the pie will rise too much, and then deflate too much.)
- Mix the eggs with the ricotta and the rest of the ingredients.
- Place the filling in the pie shell.
- Place the lattice work on top, weaving over and under till you get the desired effect.
- Swipe the lattice with either some beaten egg, milk or cream.
- Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven forr one hour.
- When cooled and ready to serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with grated orange peel.