A perfect reflection of our family’s heritage, my Aunt Nina’s ricotta cheesecake is a mix of Italian and American cheesecakes. It uses the ricotta cheese you find in most Italian recipes, but unlike those cakes, which can come out dry, this is a moist and smooth cake. It’s a real one-of-a-kind creation that’s a true original in our family.
- Unsalted butter, for greasing cake pan
- 3 pounds whole-milk ricotta
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 large eggs, separated
- Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon Strega liqueur (Cointreau or Triple Sec may be substituted)
Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 400ºF. Butter a 9-inch spring form pan and place on a baking sheet.
In a strand mixer fit with the paddle, beat the cheese, sugar, egg yolks, lemon zest, vanilla and liqueur on medium until very smooth, about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and wipe out the mixer bowl.
Put the egg whites in the mixer bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Fold the whites by thirds into the cheese mixture. Pour mixture into the prepared baking pan and level it.
Put the cake in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 350ºF. Bake until the cake has risen higher on the sides than in the middle and is set but jiggling in the center, 1 hour, 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the door open; a wine cork is a good tool for propping the door open just enough. (Be careful not to let if fall into the oven.) Let the cake cool completely in the oven for 1 hour, then cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours or overnight before removing the springform sides. Slice and serve.