Italian Cheesecake with Ricotta and Mascarpone

Far from its American counterpart, Italian cheesecake embodies a distinct character that comes from Italy’s rich history and passionate devotion to gastronomy.

Unlike the dense and heavy New York cheesecake, the Italian version is light, delicate and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

There are endless variations in Italy, depending on the ingredients used for the filling. Our version of cheesecake is baked and made with mascarpone and ricotta. It’s because of the use of these ingredients that we call this dessert “Cheesecake all’Italiana”.

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Ricotta and mascarpone are typical Italian dairy products that are widely used in our cuisine, both in their natural form and as ingredients for many sweet and savory recipes. Just to name a few: the delicious Gnudi gnocchi, the famous cannoli and the fantastic tiramisu!

Italian cheesecake uses a blend of ricotta and mascarpone cheeses to create a lighter, fluffier texture than classic American cheesecake.

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake with Mascarpone is perfect as a dessert or as a delicious and nutritious snack. It’s ideal to prepare when you want to bring a delicious and absolutely beautiful dessert to the table.

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We have chosen a garnish of cherry jam and fresh cherries. Of course, you can use any fruit you like, depending on the season.

Get ready to savor a slice of culinary heaven as we unlock the secrets of the authentic Italian cheesecake recipe, embracing the flavors and traditions that have delighted generations of Italians and continue to captivate dessert lovers worldwide!

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  • Prep Time: 30 Min + about 4 hours to cool in the refrigerator 
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Servings: 6

These are the doses for a springform pan of 20 cm (8 inch) in diameter.

For the Crust

  • 250 g (~1/2 pound) of dry cookies like Digestives cookies
  • 120 g (~1 stick) of unsalted butter

For the Filling

For the Topping

  • 150 g (~1/2 cup) of cherry jam
  • about 20 pitted cherries
  • icing sugar for decoration

Italian Cheesecake Recipe: Instructions

Make the Crust

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Step 1) – To begin preparing the Italian cheesecake, you must first prepare the cookie and butter crust.

Put the cookies in a blender and blend until they are reduced to a powder.

If you do not have a blender, you can do this manually by placing the cookies in a bag and crushing them with a rolling pin.

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Step 2) – Melt the butter in a double boiler.

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Step 3) – Place the crushed cookies in a bowl and add the melted butter, then mix vigorously until completely combined.

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Step 4) – Line the bottom and sides of an 20 cm (8 inch) diameter cake pan with baking paper.

Pour the butter and cookie mixture into the pan, using a spoon to spread it evenly on the bottom and sides. Press well and refrigerate.

Make the Filling

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Step 5) – Make the ricotta and mascarpone cream.

In a large bowl, beat the whole eggs and sugar with an electric whisk.

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Step 6) – Add the mascarpone and ricotta cheeses and continue to mix.

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Step 7) – Then add the heavy whipping cream, the juice of half a lemon and a tablespoon of cornstarch.

Grate some lemon zest if you like. Mix everything together evenly.

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Step 8) – Pour the resulting mixture into the cookie and butter crust. Level the cake pan and tap it lightly on the table to release any air bubbles and even it out.

The Baking

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Step 9) – Transfer to a preheated oven at 160°C (320°F) and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Check that the cake is done by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake and seeing if it comes out dry.

Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature and then in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours (or overnight).

While cooling, small cracks may form on the surface and the cake may sag slightly in the center, but this is perfectly normal.

When the ricotta and mascarpone cheesecake is completely cooled, you can remove it from the cake pan, transfer it to a serving platter, and start thinking about toppings and final decorations.

The Topping

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Step 10) – We chose a cherry topping that was very simple to make, but impressive and most importantly, delicious.

Stone the cherries using a Cherry pitter tool and set aside.

Spread a layer of cherry jam over the top of the cheesecake. Be sure to spread the jam evenly. Just a thin layer is enough. Don’t overdo it or it may be cloying.

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Step 11) – Place the pited cherries on top of the jam, which will act as a glue. You can fill the entire surface or leave gaps. The cherries can be arranged randomly or according to a pattern. In short, use your imagination to decorate!

Finally, dust with a very small amount of icing sugar and enjoy!

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How to Store Italian Cheesecake

You can store the Italian ricotta cheesecake with mascarpone in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 3 to 4 days.

Can I freeze the Cheesecake?

If you are making the cheesecake to eat over time or as a backup in case of unexpected guests, you can freeze it and eat it within 1 month.

The first caution is to freeze without toppings, especially if of fresh fruit. They should be added when the cake is thawed.

The second expedient is to wrap the cake first in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil, and finally either in a container or a food bag. Place in the freezer.

If you want to freeze it in slices, do the following

Place the whole cake in the freezer for at least an hour. Then cut it into slices by dipping the knife in hot water.

This last operation will give you perfect portions. Before placing the slices in the freezer, wrap them in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Finally, place each slice in a bag and close it with the drawstring.

If you decide to defrost the cheesecake, it’s better to take it out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 hours to avoid condensation and, above all, to prevent the cake from breaking up.

The Sour Part of the Recipe: Cream and Lemon

In most recipes, we find sour cream or yogurt in addition to cheese.

Both of these ingredients have the function of adding some acidity that balances the sweetness of the mixture.

Sour cream in Italy is less common than in America. We have replaced it with heavy whipping cream and lemon juice.

But this is not necessary for the purposes of the recipe; it’s a matter of taste.

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Cornstarch, Yes or No?

A little cornstarch or flour in the cheesecake cream will prevent cracking and make the cake easier to slice.

Adding cornstarch changes the texture of the cheesecake a bit, but it makes the cheesecake a little firmer.

On the other hand, a cheesecake that relies only on eggs as a thickening agent has a creamier texture. Both are fine.

What Kind of Cookies Are Best For Making Italian Cheesecake?

We have recommended Digestives cookies, which are the most commonly used cookies for cheesecake in Italy.

Other types of cookies are fine as long as they are dry and plain.

You can also use dry chocolate chip cookies.

How to Flavor the Crust

SALT: If you like a salty touch, you can add a pinch of salt to the grated cookies. It will create a delicious sweet-savory contrast with the cream cheese and jam.

CINNAMON: You can also flavor the cookie crust with a little cinnamon to give a different touch to your cheesecake. Very suitable for the Christmas and winter season.

DRIED FRUIT: To give an extra touch, you can also add dried fruit to the cookies. A handful of peanuts or almonds.

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How to Flavor the Filling

LEMON OR OR ORANGE ZEST: We suggest flavoring the ricotta and mascarpone cream with a little grated lemon zest. Or you can also use orange zest for a different flavor.

VANILLA: Often cheesecake is also flavored with vanilla.

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake (Without Mascarpone)

If you want to make a lighter Italian-style cheesecake, you can use only whole milk ricotta cheese, obviously doubling the amount.

In this case you will have a slightly less creamy but definitely lighter cheesecake.

For a stronger and more savory taste you can also use goat ricotta.

Variants of the Italian Cheesecake Topping

For the topping you can of course choose your favorite fruit and indulge in all kinds of decorations.

If you use fresh fruit, we recommend putting it on top of a layer of jam or coulis made by you.

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How to Make Coulis

The coulis is very easy to prepare both raw and cooked:

– Wash and dry the fruit and transfer it to a saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice. Stir and cook for a few minutes until the fruit is soft. Blend the mixture with an immersion blender. Strain the resulting mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any impurities and traces of seeds.

– To prepare the raw coulis: cut the fruit into small pieces. Collect them in a high-sided container with the of powdered sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. Blend everything until smooth. Pass everything through a sieve with a fine-mesh strainer.

If you want to get the jelly effect for the garnish, add isinglass or food gelatin to the coulis.

Syrupy Cherries

If you do not have fresh cherries, you can use black cherries in syrup, which are excellent for this preparation. In this case you do not need to make the jam layer because the sour cherries already have their own thick, full-bodied syrup.

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Origin of Cheesecake

Cheesecake has very ancient origins. The earliest traces of this dessert date back to ancient Greece.

Historical sources tell us that during the Olympic Games in 776 B.C., athletes on the island of Delos refreshed themselves with a cake made of honey and sheep’s cheese, an energizing and caloric meal.

In addition, Callimachus tells us that at the same time, in the eighth century B.C., there lived in Greece Aegymius, a man who devoted his time to writing a manual explaining the art of making cakes with cheese.

Later, the Romans modified the recipe and created the cake called “placenta”: two slices of dough with sweet cheese in the center, as described by Cato the Censor in his work De Agri Cultura.

The modern version of cheesecake, with a crispy base and cream cheese, was created in Philadelphia in 1872 by dairy farmer James L. Kraft.

The dairyman was trying to replicate the famous French Neufchatel cheese and got an equally tasty cream cheese that later became world famous as Philadelphia.

This spreadable cream cheese became the main ingredient in the modern cheesecake, which quickly spread throughout the United States and the Anglo-Saxon world.

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The Spread of Cheesecake Around the World

Today, cheesecake is found all over the world in many variations: baked and unbaked, sweet and savory, with and without frosting.

In addition to the very famous New York version – the symbol of American baking for non-Americans – almost every country in the world has its own version of cheesecake.

In Asia, they use local ingredients like matcha tea powder, milk, mango, and ginger.

In Europe, there are endless versions: from the Baileys cheesecake typical of Ireland, to the Skyr cheese cheesecake typical of Iceland, to the Polish cheesecake made with twarog cheese and raisins.

In Italy, as we have seen, we make it with fresh ricotta and mascarpone cheese, typical products of our territory and tradition.

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1 thought on “Italian Cheesecake with Ricotta and Mascarpone”

  1. Was excellent! I used the amareina cherries in syrup, but would next time use a coulis, as suggested. Only issue I had was the parchment going up the sides of the cheesecake weak, so some of it crumbled off.


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