This is a classic Roman Jewish recipe from my friend Anna Rosa, whose family hails from the Eternal City. Anna Rosa, a member of my Italian chit-chat group, fondly remembers her grandmother Elvira preparing this dessert, which is kind of a cross between a cheesecake and a custard.
Raisins and grated citrus peel are the traditional ingredients, but you could switch it up any number of ways by adding chocolate chips, nuts or candied citrus peel. I didn’t have the large 11 or 12-inch cake pan called for, so I used a clay paella pan instead. It meant baking a little longer than normal and a little more difficulty in turning upside down after it cooled, but a sprinkling of powdered cocoa can cover up any mishaps that may occur. It would be much simpler though if you bake it in a large spring form pan. If it’s a smaller diameter than 11 or 12 inches, just leave it in the oven a little longer.
Nonna Elvira’s Torta di Ricotta
3 pounds ricotta, drained
8 T. sugar
pinch of salt
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. cinnamon
1 1/4 cup raisins, soaked in rum for an hour, then drained
grated rind of one lemon and one orange
butter for greasing pan
breadcrumbs or matzo meal
Drain the ricotta for several hours or preferably overnight in a cheesecloth-lined colander.
Prepare the cake pan. I used a clay paella pan that measured about 11 inches in diameter, but a large spring form pan would be best. Butter the pan generously and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. (I used matzo meal instead.)
Using a fork, break up the ricotta in a bowl and mix in the sugar and eggs, one at a time. Do not use an electric mixer or you’ll incorporate too much air. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well with the fork.
Place the pan in a bagna maria (hot water bath) and bake at 350 degrees. Bake for one hour to one hour and 15 minutes, depending on thickness of pan.
Let it cool, then flip upside down onto serving plate and sprinkle with powdered cocoa or confectioner’s sugar. Decorate with fresh fruit.