Oh! so you think I'm calling your bluff with that header?
I think not.
If ever there was proof that when it comes to food our species have long crossed boundaries, reached across countries and cultures and are more bound by our similarities than our differences, it is this.
The Ricotta pie.
Though hailed as a quintessential Italian dish, it has at its core the very ingredient that has had Bengalis from Eastern India reverently reduced to tears for hundreds of years, by the one ingredient they singularly adore - namely ricotta a.k.a channar - the core of the Bengali Sandesh.
And thus it should come as no surprise that being married to one, I would be lying through my teeth if I said that this ricotta pie gets made for Easter only.
It gets made whenever the heck we wish...and we wish it a lot!
The traditional Ricotta pie is made with a lard crust using no butter. Since I happen to adore the taste of butter and the flakiness that lard or vegetable shortening lends, I'm using both.
The filling is also traditionally known to include the likes of ground almonds and finely chopped candied orange peel with nuts being a symbol of fertility.
Fertility? Been there, done that. The factory is officially closed.
So we happen to adore it quite simply: tons of ricotta, cream, orange zest instead of peel, a zing of orange emulsion (extracts are so yesterday) and ever so slightly sweetened with sugar and kept moist with crushed pineapple. Eggs, of course, are here to stay no matter which recipe you choose.
Speaking of the very traditional and exquisite Easter Wholegrain Ricotta pie La Pastiera di Grana, is gastronomic experience in itself for which there is no substitute.
This is well worth the time and effort and you'll find that recipe here from an Easter gone by.
So without further ado, lets get cracking so we can all dig into this very delicious ricotta pie the simplicity of which belies its incredible flavor.
Rustic Easter Ricotta Pie from Italy
Preparation time - 30 minutes Baking time - 50 minutes
Makes one 9" Ricotta Pie
1-1/4 lbs. ricotta cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup + 2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
3 large eggs
1 qty 8 ounce can crushed pineapple
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (to sprinkle)
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 oz. chilled butter cut into chunks
2 tbsp. chilled vegetable shortening
1 large egg & 1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp. sugar
1-1/2 tbsp. chilled water
Also required is a non-stick 9" spring foam pan or a pie dish, baking sheet & tooth picks.
For the pie crust -In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, add the all-purpose flour, cold butter chunks, vegetable shortening, egg & egg yolk, sugar & salt. Pulse for about 20 seconds to combine to a texture of soft breadcrumbs. Add 1-1/2 tbs chilled water and pulse for about 25 seconds until a ball has formed. Remove from the food processor.
Flatten the dough ball into a smooth disk and wrap in plastic cling wrap. Freeze for about 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 deg. F.
While the pie crust is chilling prepare the remaining ingredients - Ricotta cheese - Measure the ricotta cheese by weight and place in a strainer over a bowl to catch excess liquid.
Crushed pineapple - Empty the can into a sieve. Press down to remove all excess juice & discard the excess juice.
Orange - Using a zester, zest the rind and set aside.
Eggs - Crack into a bowl and discard shells.
In the same food processor bowl that has been rinsed out and dried, add the drained ricotta cheese, cream, pineapple, pure vanilla extract, orange zest, sugar, cornstarch and eggs.
Combine for a few seconds till the filling is smooth.
Liberally flour a clean working surface with about 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. Roll out the dough evenly, giving a quarter turn as you go, to a diameter 2-1/2" larger than the base of the spring foam pan.
Separate the pan base from its sides and carefully insert the pan base below the pie crust and center as best as you can. Fold the excess crust into the base and attach the pan sides.
Carefully lift and press the pie crust along the walls of the pan. Gently press down to leave no air between the bottom and sides of the pan and the crust.
Cut a toothpick at about the 2" mark. Use it as a guide and insert several toothpicks all along the pie crust (as shown in pic) to serve as a guide in trimming the pie crust evenly. Using a sharp knife, trim away the excess pie crust.
Know-how's : Use the excess pie crust to repair any uneven or thinned out portions if needed. I also use the excess dough to roll a rope that I attach along the rim of the pie crust to give a nice finished edge.
Place the pan over a baking sheet. Pour the filling into the crust filling almost to the rim. Using a fork gently press down along the rim of the pie crust for a nice decorative finish. Dust some ground cinnamon over the filling.
Place the baking sheet and pan in the hot oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 deg F
Bake for an additional 35-40 minutes until the pie is lightly puffed up and the pie is slightly jiggly in the center when gently shaken.
Remove the sheet and pan from the hot oven and allow to cool. Remove the pan sides.
Make ahead tips - Ricotta and pineapple can be placed overnight in the refrigerator to drain.
The pie can be served at room temperature or chilled in the refrigerator once it has reached room temperature. Slice and Serve chilled or room temperature.
Good luck trying to keep yours hands off this one! One bite and you're hooked.
I had a hard time stopping licking the spoon and that was before the filling grew up to become a pie. That only made things worse err...better. The pie crust which is a rich and flaky nest for this incredibly flavorful, orange infused pie just adds to an already delicious experience.