Cheesecake is a favorite in every household, but even the most dedicated cheesecake aficionados have to admit that Italian ricotta cheesecake is something special. The recipe is simple and basic, it is not the creamy cream cheese cake you might be used to—it has a crumbly texture and can be a bit wet at times, but it is the cheesecake of the Italians. I love serving it warm, but it is good cold as well.
- 3 ½ cups ricotta cheese
- ½ cup raisins
- 3 tablespoons dark rum
- Softened butter and fine dried bread crumbs for the pan
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 3/4 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Grated zest of 1 large lemon
- Grated zest of 1 large orange
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
Place the ricotta in a cheesecloth-lined sieve and place the sieve over a bowl. Cover the ricotta with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours up to one day.
Soak the raisins in rum in a small bowl, tossing occasionally, until the raisins are softened and have absorbed most of the rum.
Brush an 8-inch spring form pan with enough softened butter to coat lightly. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the butter to coat generously. Shake out the excess crumbs. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar and salt in a large bowl with a whisk until pale yellow. Add the drained ricotta, lemon and orange zest and beat until blended thoroughly. Beat in the cream. Fold in the pine nuts and the raisins and rum with a rubber spatula, blending well. Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl with a hand mixer or wire whisk until they form firm peaks when a beater is lifted from them. Add about one fourth of the egg whites to the ricotta mixture and gently stir them in. Add the remaining egg whites and fold them in, using a large rubber spatula to scrape the batter from the bottom of the bowl up and over the whites. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is golden brown on top and set in the center, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Cool the cake completely before removing the sides of the pan. Serve the cake at room temperature or chilled.