CHRISTMAS CHEESECAKE RECIPE
Crostata di ricotta
Naples - Campania
Preparation - Medium
Serves 6 - 8
The Romans make a similar cheesecake of Jewish origin, substituting the same amount of chocolate for the citron. The rest of the recipe is the same. There is a small, very old shop in the Roman ghetto that sells this crostata in pieces, along with castagnaccio, made with chestnut flour, raisins, pine nuts, and fennel seeds; the pizza made with polenta, pine nuts, raisins, and sugar; plus all the usual Roman pastries. The Roman Jews consider themselves the real descendants of antique Roman cooking, and to a great extent it is true-their recipes seem to have remained "purer" and closer to the original methods.
For the pasta frolla (pie pastry):
For the filling:
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, cut into pieces
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Dough making capability, flat pie pan with removable rim.
- 1 pound (450 g) ricotta cheese
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1/2 cup citron, cut into slivers
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds
- 1/2 cup dark raisins, soaked in good-quality rum to cover
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Butter and flour the 9-inch (23-cm) flan tin with removable sides.
- The crust:
If using an electric mixer:
Put the pastry ingredients in the large bowl of the mixer. Wrap a towel over the top around the bowl of the mixer to keep the flour from scattering. Using the paddle attachment, mix the pastry just until it masses around the paddle, 2 or 3 minutes. IF the pastry won't form, add water slowly, a few drops at a time.
If using a food processor:
Remove the butter directly from the refrigerator and cut in several pieces. Put all the ingredients in the work bowl and process just until mixed. If the pastry won't form, add water slowly, a few drops at a time.
If mixing by hand:
Mound the flour on a marble surface or pastry board. Make a well in the center and put in the sugar, egg yolks, and butter. Mix by rubbing the ingredients together as though washing your hands. Mix just until the butter is well blended and the pastry is the consistency of coarse meal. Gather the pastry together, kneading once or twice. If the pastry won't form, add water slowly, a few drops at a time.
- Cut off one-third of the pastry and set aside. Lightly flour a marble or wooden surface and roll out the larger piece of dough into a circle slightly larger than the flan tin; drape it over the rolling pin and unfold onto the tin. Pressing lightly with the fingers, fit the pastry into the tin. Cut off the excess and add to the pastry set aside. Set the tin aside.
- Prepare the filling. Put the ricotta through a food mill and add the sugar, mixing roughly with a wooden spoon. Add all the other ingredients, including the rum in which the raisins have soaked, then pour the ricotta filling into the prepared shell.
- Roll out the reserved pastry on a lightly floured wooden or marble surface and cut into strips 1 inch (5 cm) wide. Lattice the strips on top of the pie. Bake for 40 minutes, or until slightly browned. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out. Serve warm or tepid.
Italian Cooking in the Grand Tradition
Jo Bettoja and Anna Maria Cornetto
The Dial Press