Menu Development
By Pasquale “Pat” Bruno, Jr.

On some levels of taste and interest, you could call a ricotta pie the Italian version of American cheesecake. The good news is that a ricotta pie can be just as versatile as cheesecake when it comes to flavors and add-ins. And more good news is that a ricotta pie, to my way of baking, is a lot easier to make than cheesecake. There’s nothing easier than these two recipes, so give it a shot. Just think how great these ricotta pies would be as a special dessert, one that you can proudly point out on your menu that it is made in-house!

Ricotta Pie
Makes a 9-inch pie

1 pound ricotta, drained of any excess water
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unbleached flour
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream
One 9-inch pre-baked pie crust (store-bought is fine)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, sugar, flour, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla extract and cream or milk. Beat well with a spoon. Pour the filling into the baked piecrust. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

Set the pie on a cookie sheet and bake on the center shelf of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until the center is just set and the pie is golden brown. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Now here is another ricotta pie, one that takes a little more work, but one you should consider, too, as a must try. In this version, you will make your own crust, forming it into a 9 -inch x 1 1/2 - 2-inches deep non-stick layer cake pan.

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cup unsalted melted butter
1/3 cup sugar

In a mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and the sugar (alternatively, you can use the food processor). Lightly grease the cake pan. Press this mixture into the pan evenly across the bottom and up the sides. Chill for at least 1 hour.

1 1/2 pounds ricotta, drained well
3/4 cup sugar
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup diced candied fruit (optional)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Combine the ricotta, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat lightly to combine. Fold in the candied fruit if you are using it, then the chocolate chips.

Bake the pie in a preheated 350 F oven for 35-40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let pie cool. Refrigerate, covered.

Slice into wedges and serve with a berry fruit sauce or fresh fruit like strawberries or blueberries. You can also dust the top and the plate with cocoa powder just before serving for added interest.

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