Sicily is famous for its desserts, many of which feature ricotta. Cannoli, cassate, cream puffs, and various tarts and cakes all have ricotta as their star ingredient. Whenever we have some ricotta in the fridge, I know that it is destined to become this cake. Today, I wanted to do something different with the ricotta because we always make the same cake, but I ended up making it anyway, because it is really the perfect incarnation of ricotta in a dessert. However, ricotta here is a world apart from what you can find in supermarkets in the US; that stuff is plastic. Whereas “ricotta” in the US is usually a gummy white paste sold in plastic tubs, ricotta here is a creamy and delicately flavored whey cheese sold in little plastic baskets that separate the cheese from its watery whey.
This cake is always a hit with guests of all ages. You can think of it as an Italian cheesecake, lighter and softer than the American version. I like to add chocolate because chocolate is life.
The ideal ricotta to get is sheep’s milk ricotta, which has a different taste than cow’s milk ricotta, if you can find it.
Torta di Ricotta
150g butter, softened
1 packet of rising agent for baked goods or 3 tsp baking powder
500g high quality ricotta
optional: semisweet chocolate
Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together all the crust ingredients in a large bowl until they form a uniform ball, then put it on a floured countertop and knead it until the dough is completely smooth. If the dough is too loose, add more flour. Remove 1/3 of the dough and set it aside for the lattice. Press the remaining 2/3 into a buttered and floured pie dish.
Make the filling: Whip together all the filling ingredients with electric beaters until the mixture is smooth and without lumps. Pour it on top of the crust. If you want, chop up a bar of semisweet chocolate and sprinkle it on top of the filling, before you cover it with the lattice.
Make the lattice by rolling out the remaining 1/3 dough and cutting it into strips. Place the strips on top in a lattice pattern. Bake for 45 minutes. Best served chilled.