Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ricotta Cheesecake: A Fitting End to the Start of Gravy Season

What's the matter?  You never heard of gravy season?  Gravy season starts shortly after Labor Day when the temperature outside is cool enough to spend the day inside over a pot of Italian meats and sauce.  I'm not going to get into the "is it gravy or is it tomato sauce?" debate.  Paul and I are fortunate enough to have friends like Barbara and Rob who take gravy season very seriously, no debate involved.  That's why when we got an invitation to The Italian Kitchen  for the inaugural pot of gravy, I knew I had to come up with just the right dessert.  Deciding on the right dessert can be tricky.  After all, everyone would be pigging out dining on pasta covered in homemade gravy with out-of-this-world meatballs, sausage and homemade braciole,  not to mention everything we would be eating and drinking before dinner...that's a whole other story.  I wanted to make something Italian and rustic, yet I wanted to keep it light.  I decided to make this light, almost souffle-like Ricotta Cheesecake and top it off with a Strawberry-Raspberry Coulis.
Cheesecake, coulis and fresh fruit

Robert and Barbara in their swanky new kitchen
Get to work Paul!


Although this cheesecake is relatively easy to prepare, you have to plan ahead.  The ricotta has to drain for 6 hours or else you will end up with a wet-textured cake.  Drain it too long, it will be too dry.  Be sure to purchase the best quality whole milk ricotta for the best results  The cake is delicious and can stand on its own, but a berry coulis or some fresh fruit sweetens it up a bit without a ton of sugar. 

Adapted from Gourmet, November 1999  
Ricotta Cheesecake with Strawberry-Raspberry Coulis
For the Crust:

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Make crust:
Butter bottom of a 9 1/2" springform pan.
Pulse flour, sugar, salt, and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add egg yolk, vanilla, and lemon juice and pulse just until mixture begins to form a dough.  Do not over-process.  Press dough over bottom of pan and prick all over with a fork. Chill 30 minutes.
Place pan on a cookie sheet and bake in the middle of  a 350° oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Cool on a rack while preparing the filling.
Increase oven temperature to 375°F. 

  • 2 lb whole-milk ricotta, drained (line a sieve with cheese cloth and set over a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours)
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (I use a microplane)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Make filling and bake cake:
Process drained ricotta in a food processor until smooth and creamy.

With an electric mixer beat yolks and sugar until thick and pale, then beat in ricotta, flour, zests and extract.  In another bowl, beat egg whites with salt until they hold soft peaks, and fold into ricotta mixture.
Butter the sides of crust pan and pour filling over crust.

Place pan on cookie sheet and bake in middle of oven until cake is puffed and golden and a tester inserted 1 inch from center comes out clean, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen and cool completely in springform pan on rack. Chill, loosely covered, at least 4 hours.  Remove side of springform pan and transfer to a plate.   Serve with berry coulis.  For best flavor, bring to room temperature before serving.

Berry Coulis

  • 1 1/2 cups of berries - I used strawberries and raspberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • A squeeze of fresh lemon
Place berries in blender.  Add water, sugar and lemon.  Puree until smooth.  Strain mixture through a fine sieve, removing all the seeds.  Keep refrigerated until served.
Carolyn suggested an action shot

I am hoping to convince Barb and Rob to share their gravy recipe in my blog in the near future.  You see, gravy season lasts quite a while around this neighborhood.


  1. F.Y.I. Let me help you settle your dilemma....this from your Italian cousin, it's SAUCE ...gravy is made from meat renderings, etc.! With love from your Italian-American cousin Dorothy "LOMBARDI" Voight

  2. Personally, I have always called it sauce, but who am I to argue when we get such a great invitation? Never argue with the Italian host is what I always say!