Tag Archives: Ricotta cheese

Pizza Rustica (Rustic Pizza)

17 Apr

This pizza is a little bit a different from what you imagine about pizza, but it’s still delicious! Pizza rustica is a typical recipe for Easter, especially for the Easter Monday picnic, Pasquetta, but I prepare it as an aperitif or appetizer for a casual dinner with friends throughout the year too. To tell the truth it is not a real pizza but a pie with a buttery crust, filled with eggs, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan and spicy pepperoni, a very appetizing mix. Ricotta is a fresh cheese with a delicate flavor that blends perfectly with the peperoni. There are several variations of pizza rustica with different crusts depending on the region where it is prepared. Some people use a yeast dough as a crust, others add different types of cheese. This recipe is the one I love the most, one that my children especially enjoy.

Preparation time: 60 min . Cooking time: 40 min. Servings: 6

Pizza rustica

Pie dough
350 g (2 ¼ cups ) flour 00
5 g (1 teaspoon) salt
5 (1 teaspoon) sugar
5 g (1 teaspoon) baking powder for pizza or focaccia
170 g (6 oz) butter, cold, cut into pieces
70 ml (heaping ¼ cup) cold water
350 g (12.5 oz) ricotta cheese
3 eggs
75 g (¾ cups) grated Parmesan cheese
250 g (9 oz) mozzarella cheese (see note below), cut into cubes
100 g (3.6 oz) pepperoni
salt and pepper

1. For the pie dough. In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar and baking powder). Add butter and work with a pie cutter until the mixture is sandy. Add water, working first with a spoon and then with floured hands to form a ball. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
2. Prepare the filling. In a medium bowl mix the ricotta with a fork and then add the eggs. Beat with a spoon to obtain a creamy mixture. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, mozzarella and pepperoni. Add salt and pepper to taste
3. Preheat oven to 180 ° C
4. Remove the dough from the fridge. Spread 2/3 of dough with a rolling pin on a floured surface with 2-3 mm thickness. Transfer the dough into a ceramic pan (25 cm, 10 inch) in diameter, puncture the bottom with the tines of a fork, pour in the filling and level. Roll out the remaining third of the dough. Cut into 6 mm wide strips with a knife and form a latticework over the filling
5. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let it cool on a rack for about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: I would suggest using a pizza mozzarella because fresh mozzarella has too much liquid in it. If you can’t find it, Caciocavallo cheese and Provolone cheese are good substitutes for pizza mozzarella. Paola


Mini Cassata Siciliana (Mini Sicilian Cassata)

13 Apr

This year I will celebrate Easter with cassata, a delicious, tempting and colorful cake. Cassata is a typical dessert of the Sicilian pastry, in particular of Palermo. In the past it was enjoyed exclusively to celebrate Easter after the long period of Lent: a well-deserved award! Today it is enjoyed throughout the year.

The preparation is not particularly difficult as far as the cake it is concerned, whereas the decoration can be sumptuous and baroque, requiring some ability. The version that I propose is quite easy, also good for less experienced cooks. The ingredients are simple: ricotta cheese, dark chocolate and candied fruit. All these ingredients are mixed with sugar and used as a filling between two discs of sponge cake covered with colored marzipan and decorated to taste.

This recipe, like other Sicilian ones, was influenced by the Arabic domination. The name, in fact, derives from the Arabic “Quas’at”, which means round bowl. In fact, the shape looks like a bowl. The mini cassata is an alternative to cassata, elegant to serve and tasty to eat. Happy Easter all my beloved readers! Buona Pasqua a tutti!

Preparation time: 2 hrs                        Servings: 6 people

Cassatta fetta

450 g (16 oz) sponge cake, sliced 1 cm (½ inch) thick and cut into 12 discs 8 cm (3 inch) diameter with a cookie cutter
600 g (21 oz) ricotta cheese
160 g (2 cups) powdered sugar
150 g (5 oz) dark chocolate, cut into small cubes
150 g (5 oz) candied fruit, cut into small cubes
28 g (1 oz) peeled pistachios, cut into pieces
White Marsala wine
450 g (16 oz) almond paste
Green food coloring
White icing
Candied fruits for decoration

1. In a large bowl whisk sugar with ricotta. Add chocolate, candied fruits and pistachios
2. Line the base and the sides of 8 cm (3 inch) diameter and about 10 cm (4 inch) height bowl with parchment paper. This process will help remove the cassata from the bowl. Place a disc of sponge cake sprinkled with Marsala wine, pour in some of the filling (almost to the top) and cover with another disc of sponge cake sprinkled with Marsala. Cover the surface of the cake with some parchment paper and store in the fridge for about one and a half hours
3. Knead the almond paste on a working surface sprinkled with powdered sugar, mixing in the dye until you get the your favorite shade of Easter green. Roll out a disc of marzipan to cover the entire mini cassata, including the sides, to a thickness of 4-5 mm.
4. Take out from the the refrigerator, remove from the bowl and flip over onto a serving plate
5. Place almond paste on top to cover the entire surface. Decorate as desired. I decorated it very simply with some white icing and candied fruits. You can use your creativity to make it fancy.

Note: You can use this recipe to prepare just one cassata with a disc (25 cm, 10 inch) diameter. The amount of almond paste is 280 g (10 oz). Paola

Tortino con Bietole ed Acciughe (Swiss Chard and Anchovies Pie)

29 Jan

This pie makes a colorful and a tasty starter or a delicious main dish. The crust is made ​​with brisee dough while the filling is prepared with Swiss chard, first boiled, then sautéed with anchovies and mixed with fresh ricotta cheese. This is a superb combination of flavors.

Swiss chard is native to southern Europe where it grows spontaneously. It belongs to the same family as beets and spinach; its bitterness fades when cooked, leaving a more delicate taste than spinach. Like all dark green vegetables, it contains large amounts of vitamin A, fiber and folic acid. It is a low-calorie vegetable and is therefore a perfect choice for a weight-loss diet, especially if eaten boiled and dressed with oil and lemon. Furthermore this tasty vegetable can be a nutritious addition to pasta (see pizzoccheri ) and soups!

Preparation time: 70 min.          Cooking time: 45 min.           Servings: 6

Tortino bietole fetta

Brisee dough (see tortino al cavolo nero )
600 g (about 1 1/2 pounds) Swiss chard (leaves)
2 garlic cloves
3 anchovies “sott’olio” canned
3 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
130 g (heaping 3/4 cup)  ricotta cheese
Salt and fresh ground pepper

1. Prepare brisee pie crust 
2. Wash Swiss chard, cut off the white stalk (you can use in other recipes see note) and blanch the leaves for 8-10 minutes. Drain and let cool. Cut into segments of about 1 cm (0.4 inch) long
3. In a large skillet over medium-low heat sautée garlic in the oil for 4-5 min., being careful not to burn it. Chop the anchovies, add to the oil and stir until they beging to “melt”. Add chard, season with salt and pepper. Allow to cook for 10 minutes , stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and let cool
4. In a bowl work ricotta cheese with a fork, add the vegetable mix and season with salt and pepper
5. Heat the oven to 170 °C (350 °F)
6. In a 25 cm (9 inch) round baking pan, roll out the dough to 2-3 mm thick, puncture the bottom with a fork, pour in the filling and bake for about 40-45 min. Serve warm.

Note: When you buy Swiss chard look for crisp, vibrant green leaves with non yellow or brown spots. You can enjoy the stalk as well. First boil them, then sautée in olive oil with garlic and pepper. Serve warm with grated Parmesan cheese. The cheese will melt and give a special taste to this dish. – Paola


Crespelle con Zucchine e Crescenza (Crepes with Zucchini and Crescenza Cheese

8 Jan

Crepes with zucchini is a delicious and appetizing dish that you can serve either as a first course for an important dinner or as a main dish for a light lunch. Crescenza is a soft, fresh, creamy cow cheese that has a delicate and mild taste. It gives a delicious flavor to this recipe. If you cannot find crescenza cheese, I would recommend to use either Brie or Camembert cheese without the rind. First crepes are filled with the zucchini stuffing, baked in the oven with some bechamel sauce and then covered with tomato sauce.  Crepes are typical of French cuisine, but not only. In fact, in the province of Teramo (Abruzzo) they are commonly prepared and are called “scripelle”. They are used in various recipes such as pies or stuffed with Pecorino d’Abruzzo cheese, rolled and poured into chicken broth (called “scripelle’ imbusse ). In Salento, however, they are cooked longer. Therefore, they are more crisp and are eaten like a snack. I prepare crepes with a variety of fillings such as spinach and ricotta cheese, mushrooms, asparagus, ham and cheese. My kids love them as a dessert filled with Nutella, a special treat for children (and adults, too!).

Preparation time: 1 h   Cooking time: 20 min.  Servings: 4
Crespelle con zucchine e crescenza

120 g  (¾ cup) flour
240 ml (1 cup) milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
6 medium zucchini, diced
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
200 g (about 1 cup) crescenza cheese
120 g  (¾ cup) ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper
250 g (about 1 cup) bechamel sauce
6 tablespoons of tomato sauce

1. In a bowl combine flour with a pinch of salt. Add milk with a whisk until butter is uniformly smooth. In a small bowl, beat eggs with a pinch of pepper. Combine the milk mixture with eggs. The batter should be runny, if it is thick add a few tablespoons of milk. Add melted butter, whisking vigorously, cover with cling film and leave to rest for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator .
Grease with butter the bottom of a non-stick 18 cm (7 inch) pan over medium heat and pour a ladle of batter in the center, maneuvering the pan to distribute the batter over the entire surface. Cook for about a minute. When the crepe comes off easily from the pan and is golden brown, turn it with a spatula and cook the other side for 30 seconds. Keep the crepes under a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out.

Heat oven to 180 °C (350 °F)

1. Wash zucchini, remove ends and cut into cubes. In a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat sauté the garlic in olive oil, being careful not to burn it. Remove garlic and add zucchini. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside. In a bowl mix crescenza and ricotta until the mixture is creamy. Add Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Stir and add  zucchini
2. Fill half crepe with stuffing and close like a book. Complete this procedure until you have used all the filling. If you have some crepes left,  wrap with cling film and freeze. Place the crepes on the bottom of a buttered baking pan. Cover with some bechamel sauce and bake for 10 min. Meanwhile heat the tomato sauce with a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper. Remove the crepes from the oven, add 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce on each one, bake for additional 5 min. Remove from oven, let stand 1-2 minutes and serve with some grated Parmesan cheese on top. – Paola


Torta Pasqualina (Easter Pie)

23 Mar

Torta Pasqualina is a rustic savory pie typical of Liguria, filled with spinach, ricotta cheese and eggs. You can serve it as an appetizer with a nice sparkling wine (I love it with my Prosecco) or as an antipasto (starter) anytime of the year, but this dish is really part of the traditional Easter (Pasqua) dinner or served at the Easter Monday (little Easter, “Pasquetta”) picnic with family and friends. In fact you can prepare it a day in advance and enjoy it cold the next day. Torta Pasqualina traces its origins back to 1400 when it was prepared to celebrate Easter Sunday after Lent, a period of time marked by fasting. Catholics during Lent historically gave up more than just meat dishes – eggs, milk, and even fat were abandoned. According to the ancient tradition, 33 pastry layers were used (like Jesus’ age at his passing), while the eggs represented life, fertility and renewal. The ingredients (spinach, cheese, eggs and pastry) were something special, a celebration of the Easter feast. Nowadays the recipe calls for a fewer layers of pastry, and artichokes sometimes substitute spinach. Torta Pasqualina is an absolute hit for everybody who eats it – even kids like it! The perfect combination of spinach, sautéed onions and creamy ricotta cheese is its secret while the hidden eggs add a special surprise.

Preparation time: 1 h           Baking time: 40 min.       Servings: 6

Torta Pasqualina small

1 kg (about 2 pounds) fresh spinach leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
1 medium onions, finely sliced
1 sprig fresh marjoram
500 g (2 cups) ricotta cheese
1 egg + 6 hard boiled eggs
100 g (1 cup) grated Parmesan
460 g – 2 sheets (1 pound) puff pastry
Salt , nutmeg and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 170°C -180 °C (350 °F)
1.Boil 6 eggs and shell them. Set aside
2. Wash the spinach several times to remove all the soil. Drain well then steam for 3-4 minutes. Cool, drain and squeeze dry
3. In a large skillet on medium-low heat sauté the onion with olive oil until onion is soft and translucent. Add the spinach and mix well with the onion. Cook for about 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and marjoram
4. In a large bowl cream one fresh egg with the ricotta cheese and Parmesan. Add the vegetable mix and season with freshly ground pepper and nutmeg. Set aside
5. Place one puff pastry sheet in a 25 cm (10 in) baking dish and prick the pastry bottom with the tines of a fork (four or five times is sufficient). Fill with half of the vegetable mix. Hollow out 6 depressions in the filling with the back of moist spoon. Place the boiled eggs in them and pour in the rest of the vegetable mix. Cover with the second sheet
6. Bake until golden, about 40 minutes. It is delicious when eaten freshly baked and a little bit warm, but it is also a treat to enjoy cold the next day.

Note: You can substitute spinach with new Swiss chard. You can store the pie in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days. You can also freeze it after cooking. I would suggest to cut into slices and freeze each single slice. Before serving, defrost in the fridge and heat it in the oven.  -Paola

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