In ancient Greece
mizithra, a soft cheese, mixed with honey and fruits, baked or
unbaked, was the primitive form of cheese cake: it was prepared for special occasions or to offer to the
In the pre-Roman
era, when the Greeks colonized Sicily, they trained their cooks to make it, however soon the ricotta cheese,
abundantly produced in Sicily, replaced the mizithra.
In Sicily, a mush
made with grain was added to the cheesecake, also bread dough, stuffed with ricotta, honey and fruits, was baked
to produce a precursor of the modern cheesecake.
Later the Romans
introduced this primitive form of cheesecake, in all the European areas they dominated.
Before long, each
region made their own version, suitable to their taste and using local ingredients; in Sicily this cake evolved
in the baked cassata.
ricotta cheesecake is another version of the cassata: the same
ingredients used to make it are combined in a simple recipe to produce this delicious dessert prepared on
holidays and special occasions.
In fact the eggs
and flour are the main components to bake the sponge, pane di Spagna;
the ricotta, sugar and orange zest are the basic elements to make the filling of the Cassata Siciliana.
To enrich the taste
of the ricotta cheesecake, add 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips or chunks, 1 tablespoon of toasted pine
nuts and either 3 tablespoons diced candied fruits or raisins; don’t forget to presoak and coat the raisins with
The filling can be
mixed by hand, but we suggest using an electric mixer in order to make it smooth and simplify this part of the
Serve 8 to
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 ½ cups finely crushed shortbread or pasta frolla cookies
2 lb. ricotta cheese
6 oz. granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 egg yolks
4 oz. flour
Fresh zest from 1 orange
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
of time, in a large bowl, place the flour and sugar, mix well; add the ricotta and blend until smooth. Add the
eggs and yolks, one at a time: blend the mixture well and make sure there are no lumps. Add the zest of orange,
cinnamon, vanilla and the optional chocolate, pine nuts and candied diced fruits or the
be prepared ahead of time and kept refrigerated.
Preheat the oven to
Combine the crumbed
cookies with the butter; in a 9-inch round springform pan press the crumb mixture at the bottom and side of
If you like, use
crumbled amaretto cookies to give extra flavor and taste.
the filling with a wooden spoon to aerate and make it silky-smooth.
Pour filling over
the crust and smooth the top evenly.
Bake for 45 minutes
at 350 F, then tent with aluminum foil, lower the oven temperature to 325 F and bake it for an additional 25
minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center, comes out clean.
Cool for 30 minutes
and gently remove side of pan.
Serve at room
temperature and garnish with a light dust of powdered sugar.