This ricotta pie is a wonderfully easy recipe with a few simple ingredients. Its light and cozy taste will bring you straight to southern Italy.
It has a chocolatey, creamy, and aromatic filling and a soft and crumbly crust. It’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, excellent for special holiday meals like Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving.
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There are many things to love about this sweet ricotta pie recipe. First and foremost, its milky and aromatic flavor and creamy and flaky texture.
Second, it’s simple, with two components; the crust and the filling, and they are both easy to make; there’s no messing around with egg whites and egg yolks.
For the filling, you can use whole milk ricotta cheese or our easy homemade dairy-free ricotta; both work wonderfully.
The ricotta is mixed with orange zest, vanilla, sugar, and dark chocolate chips, and it tastes like Sicily (we use the same filling in our Sicilian Cannoli). The orange zest adds freshness and a warm aroma that melds beautifully with the dark chocolate chips and the creamy ricotta.
For the pie crust, you’ll need simple ingredients like flour, sugar, water, vegetable oil, a little baking powder, and a little more orange zest. The crust is light, flakey, and delicious.
Let’s see how to make this Italian ricotta pie step-by-step. It’s one of our family’s favorite Italian desserts, and we think you will love it.
You can make this recipe with all-purpose flour.
We also tested it with bread flour, whole-wheat flour, spelt flour, and oat flour, and they all produce a great pie crust.
To make the recipe gluten-free, you can easily substitute a gluten-free 1-to-1 flour mixture for all-purpose flour.
Regular white sugar works best.
You can substitute coconut sugar, cane sugar, palm sugar, or any other sugar in granular form for white sugar.
If you want to make it taste like an Italian ricotta pie, then use white sugar.
Pick a light-colored and neutral-flavored vegetable oil like canola oil or sunflower oil. The crust will be light, and you won’t taste their flavor.
Mixed with the oil, water helps make a light, crumbly, and flaky shortcrust pastry.
Orange zest is essential in this recipe. It infuses the crust with aroma and connects it (from a flavor perspective) with the ricotta filling.
Make sure only to zest the orange peel of the orange and not the white pith under the peel because the white part can be bitter.
You can substitute lemon zest for orange zest.
A tiny bit of baking powder helps us make the crust light and flakey.
You can use whole milk ricotta.
Tip: In most cases, you can use the ricotta right out of the package. In a few instances, if the ricotta looks watery, let it drain for half an hour in a strainer lined with cheesecloth or with a clean kitchen towel made out of cotton.
To make the recipe vegan, you can use our soy ricotta (you’ll need about 3 times our recipe), which you can make at home in less than 45 minutes with store-bought soy milk, vinegar, and salt.
Since there are no eggs, butter, or heavy cream among the ingredients, that’s the only adjustment you have to make.
Dark chocolate chips
Add mini dark chocolate chips; they are delicious with ricotta cheese and orange zest.
Sugar + Orange Zest + Vanilla
White sugar is best here, as orange zest, vanilla extract, or the seeds in a vanilla pod. You can substitute almond extract for vanilla.
Make the crust
Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C. Brush your tart pan with oil, then dust it with flour.
We recommend using a tart pan with removable bottom.
Tip: If you use a pie dish or pie pan (instead of a tart pan with removable bottom), oil it, then place two long and wide strips of parchment paper in a cross position into the pie dish under the dough, coming out slightly from the edges.
After baking, let the tart cool down for 30 minutes, then lift it out of the tray by pulling up the parchment strips. Of course, you can always serve the tart from the pie dish if that sounds too risky.
Add the sugar, water, oil, and orange zest to a large mixing bowl and mix well with a spatula.
In a separate bowl, mix flour and baking powder.
Add them to the bowl with the wet ingredients all at once.
Mix wet and dry ingredients until the liquids absorb the flour without overmixing.
Compact the dough with your hands for a few seconds until it comes together.
You don’t have to knead the dough but only compact it together.
Tip: the dough should not get springy. It should not bounce back when you push down with a finger.
Take about 3/4 of the dough and transfer it to the tart pan. Flatten it with your hands to cover the bottom and sides.
Prick the bottom and sides with a fork.
Make ricotta filling
To a bowl, add the ricotta, orange zest, mini dark chocolate chips, sugar, and vanilla extract.
Whisk until well combined.
You can do that with a manual whisk, spatula, or, if you prefer, with an electric mixer.
Pour the ricotta mixture into the crust and flatten it with the back of a spoon.
Make lattice top
On a worktop dusted with flour, roll out the leftover dough thinly, and cut out nine stripes with a sharp knife or pastry wheel cutter.
Arrange the stripes on top of the tart, 5 in one direction and the other 4 in the opposite direction.
Push down the edges with your fingers or with a fork to attach the stripes to the edge.
Bake in the oven at 350°F or 180°C for about 45 minutes.
Let cool down completely (we recommend 3 hours if you want a perfect slice like in the pictures) before taking it out of the tart pan and transferring it onto a pie plate.
You can dust the top with powdered sugar to make it look prettier, then slice it and enjoy.
Raisins, rum, and cinnamon (Grandma’s filling)
My favorite variation of all, although I can understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, is the one my grandma used to make with raisins, rum, and cinnamon.
To make it, replace the chocolate chips with a 1/2 heaping cup of raisins that you soaked for 10 minutes in 1/3 cup of rum.
Squeeze and add the raisins to the ricotta; discard the rum. Next, add the sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, the zest of 1 lemon and one orange, 1/4 cup pine nuts, and the seeds of a vanilla pod or vanilla extract. Mix with a spatula and use as a filling.
Liqueur ricotta pie
In some parts of Italy, they add orange-flavored liqueur called Grand Marnier to the ricotta filling.
You can add 2 to 3 tbsp of it if you like. Alternatively, you can use any other liqueur with an orange or fruity aroma.
Cinnamon ricotta pie
If you make this pie in winter or during the winter holiday season, adding a teaspoon or two of cinnamon to the filling will make the ricotta pie warm and cozy. You can also sprinkle some cinnamon on top, mixed with powdered sugar.
Room temperature: you can store ricotta pie on your kitchen counter for 3 to 4 days, best if covered with a cloth or stored in a cake keeper. If where you live is very hot, that is above 90°F or 30°C; then you might want to put it in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic.
Refrigerator: store covered in plastic wrap for up to 5 days.
Freezer: we do not recommend freezing the whole ricotta pie. You can freeze the shortcrust pastry for up to 3 months.
Make ahead: you can make ricotta pie up to 5 days in advance if you store it in the fridge. You should make this pie 3 hours before serving it, but better if you make it half a day in advance or the night before serving it.
How to zest citrus fruit?
When you zest citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and limes, ensure you only grate the colored part of the skin because the white pith under the peel is bitter.
Should I strain the ricotta?
Good quality whole milk ricotta should not require straining; however, sometimes, lower-quality ricotta might be a little watery. If this is the case, first, drain the water that forms on top of the ricotta.
Then transfer the ricotta to a colander that you previously lined with a cheesecloth or a cotton cloth with a fine mash. Let excess water drain from the ricotta for half an hour. To speed things up, add a weight on top of the ricotta.
Sift the ricotta if grainy
Taste your ricotta before making the filling. If the ricotta is grainy, which mostly happens with cheaper, lower-quality ricotta cheese, then our advice is to pass it through a sift.
Add the ricotta to a sift with fine mesh, then imagine you are spreading the ricotta into the sift. It’ll come out the other side ultra smooth, making your ricotta cake smooth too.
Alternatively, if the ricotta is grainy, you can blend it in a food processor or blender.
Don’t knead the dough
When making this kind of pie crust – which is basically a shortcrust pastry without butter and eggs – it is essential that you don’t knead the dough but rather compact it together with your hands until it comes together.
Kneading develops the gluten in the flour, which means that your crust won’t be flaky and light but stiff and gummy.
Let the ricotta pie cool down.
Wait a few hours before slicing and eating ricotta pie. I know it’s super hard, but this recipe’s texture and flavor will improve if you wait at least 3 hours before eating it.
Ricotta is a dairy product made with whey leftover from cheese production.
While in the United States, it’s mostly made from whole cow’s milk, in Italy, sheep, cow, goat, and buffalo ricotta is also popular.
Ricotta has a milky flavor and a soft and creamy texture that is excellent for making sweet and savory recipes.
Ricotta means “re-cooked” in Italian. That’s because the leftover whey used to make ricotta is cooked again – twice in total.
More pie and tart recipes
If you love preparing easy tarts and pies at home, take a peek at these tart recipes with few ingredients:
- Blueberry tart with 15 minutes of preparation time
- Easy apple pie: a favorite fall and holiday dessert
- Quick Italian crostata with apricot jam
- Fruit tart with homemade custard
- Vegan lemon tart with a quick lemon curd inside
- Zucchini pie with chickpea flour
- Apricot tart with almond frangipane
- Torta della Nonna (Grandma’s custard pie)
For many more easy dessert ideas, check out our desserts category page.
- Tart pan or pie dish 9 to 10 inches (24 to 26cm) easiest if with removable bottom.
- 2⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup canola oil or sunflower oil
- ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ orange the grated zest
- 2½ cups ricotta or dairy-free ricotta*
- ½ cup sugar
- ⅓ heaping cup mini dark chocolate chips
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ orange the grated zest
MAKE THE CRUST
- Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C. Brush your tart pan with oil, then dust it with flour.We recommend using a tart pan with removable bottom.
- Add the sugar, water, oil, and orange zest to a large mixing bowl and mix well with a spatula.
- In a separate bowl, mix flour and baking powder.Add them to the bowl with the wet ingredients all at once.Mix wet and dry ingredients until the liquids absorb the flour without overmixing.
- Compact the dough with your hands for a few seconds until it comes together.You don't have to knead the dough but only compact it together.
- Take about ¾ of the dough and transfer it to the tart pan. Flatten it with your hands to cover the bottom and sides.Prick the bottom and sides with a fork.
MAKE RICOTTA FILLING
- To a bowl, add the ricotta, orange zest, mini dark chocolate chips, sugar, and vanilla extract.
- Whisk until well combined.
- Pour the ricotta mixture into the crust and flatten it with the back of a spoon.
MAKE LATTICE TOP
- On a worktop dusted with flour, roll out the leftover dough thinly, and cut out nine stripes with a sharp knife or pastry wheel cutter.
- Arrange the stripes on top of the tart, 5 in one direction and the other 4 in the opposite direction.Push down the edges with your fingers or with a fork to attach the stripes to the edge.
- Bake in the oven at 350°F or 180°C for about 45 minutes.
- Let cool down completely (we recommend 3 hours if you want a perfect slice like in the pictures) before taking it out of the tart pan and transferring it onto a pie plate.You can dust the top with powdered sugar to make it look prettier, then slice it and enjoy.
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