Ricotta Cheesecake

Conversational Italian Recipes 2019

Italian Recipes on this page were originally created for www.LearnTravelItalian.com to promote family style Italian and Italian-American cooking.

Buon appetito!

-© 2019 Stella Lucente, LLC


 

Italian Pasta and Lentils for New Year’s Good Luck

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog Italian pasta and lentils — is said to bring families around the world good luck for the new year !

Italian Pasta and Lentils for New Year’s Good Luck! 

Pasta with lentils or lentil soup is a New Year’s tradition in many Italian households. The  lentil dishes are said to bring to luck to the family on New Year’s Day.  I am not sure if anyone really knows exactly why lentils are supposed to be good luck.  Maybe it is because they are shaped like small coins?

Whatever the reason, pasta and lentils is a hearty and delicious winter combination. Lentils are rich in protein,  and the pasta/lentil combination was probably an important contribution to family nutrition  in the days of the “cucina povera” cooking in Italy. Flavored with a bit of pancetta (Italian peppery bacon), garlic and tomato, the lentils make a delicious sauce that coats the pasta beautifully.

I used “maltagliati” or “poorly cut” pasta for this dish,  which to me is reminiscent of its “cucina povera,” origins but also because  the lentils cling nicely to the short, flat noodles. If you cannot find maltagliati pasta, lasagna noodles broken by hand into small, irregular pieces will give a similar effect.

Buon anno 2019 a tutti!  Try my pasta and lentils dish on a wintry day for a warm and comforting meal.   -Kathyn Occhipinti


Italian Pasta and Lentils

 

Italian Lentils and Pasta
Pasta and Lentils ready to serve for Italian New Year’s Sunday dinner

Ingredients
(Serves 4)


1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pancetta (Italian bacon), diced finely
1  small carrot, chopped finely*
1 stalk of celery, chopped finely*
1 small onion, skin removed, chopped finely*
1 small clove garlic, chopped finely
1/2 cup dry Italian wine, such as Chianti
1 cup Italian lentils, rinsed
1 bay leaf
pinch of dried thyme or rosemary
3 cups of water
1/2 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 Tbsp. tomato puree
1 lb. maltagliati pasta or lasagna noodles, coarsely broken into small pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
*See below for note about how to chop soup vegetables.

 

Method

Before starting to make the lentil sauce, put a large pot of salted water to boil on a back burner.  Cover so it will come to a boil quickly and be ready when you need to cook the pasta.

 Use a large frying pan or Dutch oven to cook the lentils on the stove top.  Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil, which will take about 1/4 cup or so.  Let the oil heat a bit over medium heat.

Add the chopped vegetables: carrots, celery, onions, and garlic, and saute in the garlic until they soften, about 5 minutes.

The pour in the red wine and then bring to a boil. Boil off about half of the wine.

Put the lentils to the pan.  If you want firmer lentils, you can saute them at this point.  Otherwise, add the water.  Stir. Bring back to the boil and then lower heat and simmer the lentils about 20 minutes.

When the lentils have softened a bit, remove the bay leaf. Then add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken or vegetable broth.  Add more water if needed. Bring up to a simmer again and cook 10 – 15 minutes more, or until lentils are of desired tenderness.

Meanwhile, put the pasta into the boiling water.  Stir. Cover the pot to return to the boil Remove cover, stir again and let pasta cook, stirring occasionally.  Cook for less time than the package directions, to a very firm al dente, as the pasta will finish cooking with the lentils.

When the pasta is ready, drain, reserving some of the pasta water.

Add the pasta to the lentils.  Add the pasta water if needed.  The sauce should be fairly thick and coat the pasta nicely as you mix.

Cook over medium low heat another 5 minutes or so, until all is heated through and pasta is al dente.

Add the grated cheese and mix again to coat.

Serve steaming hot with crusty bread. Serve additional cheese and black pepper on the side to be added as desired.

New Year’s toast: Buon Anno!  Buon Appetito!

 

*How to Chop Vegetables
Carrots: Cut lengthwise to half, and then lengthwise again to get quarters. Line them up side by side and then cut crosswise from the tips to the base of the carrot to get small, even pieces that look like quarters of a circle.
Celery: Cut lengthwise through each celery stalk as many times as needed to give pieces the same thickness as the carrot pieces. (You will need more lengthwise cuts at the thicker part of the celery near the base.) Then cut crosswise from the tip to the base to get small, rectangular  pieces of celery about the same size as the carrot pieces.
 Onions: Cut lengthwise through the onion. Turn one of the halves flat side down.  Holding the onion together with one hand, cut lengthwise along the green lines through the onion, except for the root holding the onion together at the base.  Turn and cut horizontally, from the side away from the stem toward the stem.  Just before reaching the stem, flip the onion flat again and make the final cuts.  Discard the piece that contains the stem.

— by Kathryn Occhipinti

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Italian Pasta and Lentils for New Year’s Good Luck


 

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake for Valentines Day

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog Italian ricotta cheesecake — is a light, fresh cheesecake perfect for  your Valentine!

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake for Valentines Day 

When I was growing up in New York, my mother made a version of light, fresh-tasting cheesecake that my family loved.  After I became older and moved away from home,  I would often order what was called “New York Style” cheesecake in restaurants, hoping for a dessert that that would come close to the memory I had of my mother’s heavenly version.

What I came to realize over the years was that “New York Style” cheesecake is not at all like the cheesecake that my  used to make  while we were living in New York.  I could not understand why the restaurant cheesecake served to me often had an off flavor (can you say artificial ingredients?) and a texture that was heavy, and even gooey or sticky.

Of course, as I discovered when I finally asked my mother for her recipe, the reason the cheesecake I had at home was so different from what I found in restaurants was the type of cheese my mother used.  The ricotta cheese that my  mother would get freshly made from the Italian deli  after church every Sunday yielded a delicious, light, and almost crumbly cheesecake,  gently held together by a few  fresh eggs, flavored lightly with vanilla and given a fresh taste with a bit of lemon zest.  Which is not to say the other, more creamy versions made with cream cheese are not good if made with fresh ingredients.  They are just not Italian ricotta cheesecake!

The Italian crust my mother makes for her ricotta cheesecake also yields another subtle layer of flavor.  The method used to make the Italian version of a smaller fruit “crostata” or “tart” transfers to the thicker cheesecakes made in Italy.  A  “pasta frolla,” or “sweet pastry” crust lines the bottom of the tart and a lattice crust nicely decorates the top of the tart, and a true Italian cheesecake will have a lattice crust!  The crust for this cheesecake is flavored with a bit of lemon zest and brandy, which nicely compliments the taste of the fresh ricotta.

I modified the traditional lattice crust for Valentines Day by cutting an open heart into the top lattice crust.  After  baking the cheesecake, I let it cool a bit and then  I spread some good raspberry jam into the center of the heart for color and a little extra flavor.

Making the Italian ricotta cheesecake in the recipe below was even more fun for me than usual because I was able to use my new time-lapse photography software for my  cell phone.  If you want to see the video of my home cooked Italian ricotta cheesecake in the making, just click on the link below for the magic of Instagram!

View this post on Instagram

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake for Valentines Day. Makes a light, crumbly cheesecake, Italian-style, invented by the Romans! Ingredients: Crust: Mix 2 cups flour, 1/4 c sugar, 1/2 tsp. Salt. Cut in 3/4 cup unsalted butter. Add and mix with a fork: 2 large eggs lightly beaten, 3 Tbsps. Brandy, 1 tsp. Grated lemon zest. Spread mixture over bottom of 9” springform pan and bake 8 min at 350 degrees. Make disk of rest and refrig. Filling: Mix together 2 1/2 lbs. good ricotta cheese, 1/2 c sugar, 1 Tbsp. flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. Vanilla, 1 tsp. lemon zest, 2 large eggs beaten lightly. Pour filling into partially prebaked crust. Roll out rest of dough to create heart. Bake at 350 1 hour and about 15 min.more. Dust with powdered sugar. Fill in heart with raspberry or other jam. Add fruit. Let cool and then refrig at leat 4 hours before enjoying!………………………….. #cheesecake #italiandesserts #italiandessertsarethebest #italiandessert🇮🇹 #italiandessertcheesecake #italianfoodbloggers #italianfoodblogger #valentinedessert #valentinesday2019 #dolcevita #osnap #valentinesdaygift #learnitaliancookng #italiancook #italiancookingclass #cheesecakerecipe #cheesecakes #cheesecakefactory #thecheesecakefactoryathome #valentinesday2019 #valentinedesserts #valentinedessert #valentinedaydessert #valentinedessertcrawl #valentinedessertspecial

A post shared by Kathryn Occhipinti (@conversationalitalian.french) on

My family loved this cheesecake as an early Valentines Day present.  I hope your loved ones will too!   -Kathryn Occhipinti


Italian Ricotta Cheesecake 

Ricotta Cheesecake with raspberry jam
Slice of Italian Ricotta Cheesecake with Raspberry Jam topping and coffee

Ingredients
(Makes One, 9″ Cheesecake)

Pasta Folla for the Crust
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cups unsalted butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp brandy
1 tsp grated lemon zest

Ricotta Filling 
2  1/2 lbs. fresh ricotta cheese*
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon zest
2 large eggs beaten lightly

Topping
powdered sugar
raspberry jam
fresh raspberries

Method

Before starting to make the cheesecake,  set an oven rack into the lower third of your oven and preheat your oven to 350°.

Assemble the Springform pan and lock the bottom in place.  (If you don’t have a Springform pan, you can use a deep dish pie pan.)

For the crust:

In a large, wide bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt together with a fork.

Cut in 3/4 cup unsalted butter with a pastry cutter or your hands, running your thumb across your fingers to create small, flat, “flakes” of butter (method shown in Instagram video).

Add the lightly beaten eggs, brandy and lemon zest.

Mix together with a fork gently and then your hands gently until the dough comes together to form a disk.

Pull off pieces of the dough and use this to line the bottom of a 9″ Springform pan.  Reform the remainder of the dough into a disk and refrigerate in plastic wrap 30 minutes.

Pop into the oven and bake 8 – 10 minutes at 350°, or until lightly brown and set, but not cooked through.

Take out of oven and let cool before filling.

For the filling:

Using a large spoon or an electric mixer on low, gently mix together the ricotta cheese, sugar, flour salt, vanilla and lemon zest.

Add the 2 beaten eggs and mix gently to combine.

Pour the filling into the pre-baked, cooled crust in the Springform pan.

Take out the disk of reserved dough from the refrigerator.  Roll the dough out on a floured board.

Cut  one side of the rolled out dough into 4 long strips and place each strip onto the periphery of the filling to create the four sides of a square. Cut out a heart the size to fit into the center of the square. (You can cut the heart out of paper at first until you get the right size and then use this as a stencil to trace when cutting the dough if  you are not comfortable cutting the heart free hand.  And if it doesn’t work the first time, just put the dough back together and try again!)

Place the cheesecake in the oven and bake at 350 degrees about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until set and lightly brown on the edges.

Complete the  Cheesecake:

Let the cheesecake cool a bit.

Sprinkle all over with powdered sugar.

For a special occasion such as Valentines Day, spread a thin layer of raspberry jam into the cheesecake, in the center of the heart and/or between the lattice crust.

Top with fresh raspberries if desired.

Let set in the refrigerator overnight or at least 3 hours before enjoying!

 

*How to Find Good Ricotta Cheese
Today, I live near two small grocery store chains that make ricotta cheese fresh daily, and I would advise using this ricotta cheese instead of the mass produced (and preservative filled) ricotta cheese found on the shelves in most grocery stores.  If you have access to good, farm-fresh milk, it is actually easy to make your own cheese – but that is the subject of another blog!

— by Kathryn Occhipinti

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake for Valentines Day