This Italian ricotta cheesecake has a unique flavor and a light and fluffy texture. Made with few ingredients, this cheesecake not only looks beautiful, but tastes amazing!
If I had to choose a dessert that wasn’t made of chocolate, I would probably go for the creamiest, heaviest, tallest piece of cheesecake imaginable, like my New York Cheesecake or Classic Cheesecake. But not everyone loves rich, dense cheesecake as much as I do, and I’ve had several readers request a lighter, more airy cheesecake,
This cheesecake recipe uses ricotta cheese, which creates a lighter texture and also lends a slightly different flavor. While classic Italian ricotta cheesecake uses only ricotta as the primary cheese, I like to add a bit of cream cheese for added richness. This cheesecake pairs amazingly with fresh berries or a bit of chocolate sauce!
How to make ricotta cheesecake
First, you’ll need to drain the ricotta cheese. I highly recommend not skipping this step because ricotta cheese is very watery, and too much liquid in the cheesecake will affect its texture.
Here’s how to drain the ricotta cheese
- Place the cheese in a fine-mesh sieve lined with two layers of paper towels, and place the sieve over a bowl.
- Leave it to drain for several hours, or even overnight, before using it. The result is thicker cheese, and better, creamier texture.
Next, make the ricotta cheesecake crust
- Mix cookie crumbs and melted butter until evenly combined and moistened.
- Firmly press the mixture into a 9-inch springform pan and bake for 8-10 minutes at 350°F/180°C, until golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before adding the filling.
Make the cheesecake filling
- Beat the cream cheese, ricotta and sugar together. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium-low speed until smooth and lump-free, about 1-2 minutes. Add ricotta and sugar and beat until combined and cheese is smooth.
- Add the eggs. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until fully combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary using a rubber spatula.
- Add the final ingredients. Add cornstarch, vanilla extract, and zest, and beat just until blended and smooth. Pour batter over cooled crust and spread evenly.
- Bake in a water bath. Line the sides of your springform pan with aluminum foil so it comes about halfway up the sides – this is to prevent any water from leaking into your cake. Place inside a large roasting pan and place the roasting pan in the oven. Pour hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan, being careful not to go above the aluminum foil. Place carefully in the oven and bake for 60-70 minutes until the sides of the cheesecake are set but the center is still slightly wobbly.
- Chill the cheesecake. Transfer pan to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Then, cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours to set.
What is a water bath and why do I need to use one?
A water bath is used for baking custard-based desserts, like cheesecakes and creme brulee. Custards are liquidy and contain eggs, so they need to be baked extra carefully to keep the eggs from curdling (think of what happens when you cook an egg in a frying pan). However, a water bath allows the heat from the oven to distribute more evenly and at a slower pace. This produces a super creamy texture with no curdled egg or cracks on the top of your cheesecake.
Make it more Italian style
If you’ve ever tried authentic Italian or Sicilian ricotta cheese cakes and loved them, then this cake is already similar in taste and texture. However, here are a few ways to make it even more Italian style:
- Replace ½ of the crust crumbs with Italian amaretti or biscotti cookies.
- Leave out the crust. Some classic, authentic recipes don’t use a crust at all.
- If you prefer a taller cake, you can increase the amount of ingredients (baking time will be longer).
- Add 1 tablespoon of Amaretto liqueur to the filling.
- Separate the eggs to get an airy and even lighter texture. To do so, add the egg yolks when the recipe calls for whole eggs. When all the ingredients are combined, whip up the egg whites to soft peaks and fold into the batter. The cake will look airy on the outside with that rustic look of an Italian torte.
More of my favorite sweet & cheesy dessert recipes
- Lemon White Chocolate Cheesecake
- Simple Classic Cheesecake
- New York Cheesecake
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
- Cheesecake Brownies
- Mascarpone Lemon Pound Cake
- Ricotta Chocolate Chip Pastry Squares
Ricotta Cheesecake Recipe
A lighter, airier, Italian-style cheesecake that tastes incredible and pairs perfectly with fresh berries or chocolate ganache!
- 1 cup (100g) graham cracker or digestive biscuits crumbs*
- 3 tablespoons (40g) unsalted butter, melted
- 8 oz. (225g) full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 cups + 1 tablespoon (540g) whole-milk ricotta cheese, drained**, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs , at room temperature
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Grated zest of 1 lemon or orange
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Wrap the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with one large piece of foil, then repeat with another piece. This will ensure that water from the water bath doesn’t seep into the cake.
In a medium bowl mix crumbs and melted butter until evenly combined and moistened. Press mixture into pan. You can use the bottom of a glass to press it into an even layer. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before adding the filling. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium-low speed until smooth and lump-free, 1-2 minutes. Add ricotta and sugar and beat until combined and cheese is smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until fully combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Add cornstarch, vanilla extract, and zest, and beat just until blended and smooth. Pour batter over cooled crust and spread evenly.
Place pan inside a large roasting pan, then pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Place carefully in the oven and bake for 60-70 minutes or until sides of the cheesecake are set but the center is still slightly wobbly.
Transfer pan to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Cover cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours to set. The cake will taste best a day after it’s made.
Cake can be kept in the fridge, well covered, for up to 5 days.
*To make crumbs, pulse cookies in a food processor or blender until finely ground.
**Ricotta cheese is watery and must be drained for several hours. After you’ve measured out the 2 cups + 1 tablespoon (540g) of ricotta cheese, place it in a fine-mesh sieve lined with two layers of paper towels, and place the sieve over a bowl.