Ondine’s Crostata di Ricotta (Easter Cheesecake Pie)

This is a recipe for a dessert that appears in Chapter 6 of my novel, COOKING FOR PICASSO. My heroine, Ondine, is called upon to cook for a special luncheon party for Picasso and his two mysterious guests.

I have adapted this recipe from one which my mother gave me. Of course, she always made her own pie crust, but I'll write about how to do that in another blog. For now, we'll do this recipe with a pre-made crust. And this time around, I'm using a graham-cracker crust instead of the usual pastry crust.

Let's do it!

The Ingredients:

1 15 oz. container of ricotta cheese (preferably organic, this is like cottage cheese)

2 large eggs (or 3 small/medium ones) lightly beaten

1 tablespoon of orange juice (preferably fresh-squeezed)

1 teaspoon of vanilla (real vanilla, not vanilla flavoring)

1 teaspoon of orange rind (un-waxed)

1/3 cup sugar (preferably organic)

1 teaspoon flour

1 pre-made pie crust (or graham-cracker crust), regular depth (NOT a deep-dish crust)

a handfulof chopped nuts and raisins (optional)

1 teaspoon of orange-infused cognac (or Grand Marnier) (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

About the crust: If your piecrust is frozen, thaw it a bit before baking. If your piecrust is a flour crust, you should lightly pre-bake it before adding the filling. (You may want to crimp some aluminum foil around the crust so it doesn’t burn once you add the filling later.) Graham-cracker crusts do not need to be pre-baked.

Make the filling:  In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, beaten eggs, flavorings, cognac and sugar until just blended (it’s OK if the batter is lumpy).  Then, sprinkle the flour over it and mix in. NOTE: in my novel, my heroine Ondine added chopped nuts and raisins to the batter, but this is optional.  

Pour the filling into your piecrust. If you have a flour-based piecrust, you can use the bottom one to put your filling into; then, you can cut up the top crust into strips, laying the strips horizontally and vertically to make the “lattice-style”  top crust. But, this pie can also be done with just a bottom crust, made of flour or graham cracker, that is, “open-faced” with no top crust.

Bake in the preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until the custard filling is browned and springy to the touch.  Hint: watch the trim of your piecrusts, make sure they don’t over-brown.

Cool the pie in its dish on a drying rack. It can be served at room temperature, but, once it’s completely cooled, you can refrigerate it for a few hours or serve the next day.

Serve: It’s very nice with a glass of dessert wine or sherry, or a fine cup of coffee or tea.

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