Ready to bake some pies? This one has nothing to do with Mildred Pierce, but it’s perfect for the holidays

mildred pierceMama Gabriella’s Sicilian Christmas Pie (Lemon Ricotta Torte)

Lighter than a cannoli, kind of like a Southern Chess Pie but more delicious… You can use your favorite flaky pie dough recipe, or make a sweet dough that’s more like a cookie under a custard ricotta filling (sweet dough recipe will follow).


1 1/2 pounds of dry ricotta cheese (place ricotta in a sieve over a bowl and set in fridge overnight to drain, or tie ricotta into a bundle of cheesecloth and suspend over bowl with a chopstick) 5 egg yolks, 5 egg whites beaten until stiff, 3/4 cup of sugar, grated rind of one lemon, 1/2 cup slivered almonds (or crushed pistachios), 1/2 cup diced candied lemon peel (or 1/2 cup dried cranberries), 2 tablespoons heavy cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla

Some people add 1/2 cup of tiny semi-sweet chocolate chips, and 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon, I don’t — but it’s to taste.

Beat egg yolks lightly. Add sugar, cream, and vanilla. Stir in drained ricotta cheese. Add almonds (or pistachios), candied lemon peel (or cranberries), and lemon rind. Mix well. Fold in the 5 egg whites (beaten until stiff) and incorporate gently.

Pour filling onto dough in 9 inch pie pan. Bake at 350° for one hour, or until the filling is set. Make ahead and serve chilled.

Sweet Dough for Torte

The neat thing about this dough is that you don’t roll it, you just pat it into the pan. It’s not tender like flaky pastry dough, it’s dense and crisp like a sugar cookie. I usually go with the flaky pastry dough, but this is the traditional way and it’s a time-saver, too.

3 cups flour, 1 cup butter, 1/4 cup sugar, juice of one lemon, grated rind of one lemon, 2 egg yolks, 1/4 cup cold water

Blend together flour and butter. Beat egg yolks and add the cold water. Add egg mixture to flour and butter. Stir in lemon juice, lemon rind, and sugar. Pat the dough into a pie pan and chill for at least an hour. Fill with lemon ricotta mixture and bake.

My mom used to tell me stories about having dinner at her best friend’s (a huge Italian household) when she was in high school in the late 1930s. She said every night was like Thanksgiving, course after course after course of food. Afterward, Mama Gabriella would clear everything from the table and emerge later in the evening, while the kids were listening to the radio or finishing their homework, with a platter of sandwiches—just in case they were hungry.

Mama, for the delicious recipe we give thanks, from one generation to another… Happy Holiday Baking.


    • I forgot to mention the difference between flaky crust and sweet dough, it’s the amount you blend. Flaky crust looks like gravel when the butter and flour are blended, and sweet dough has a finer, sandier, texture.

  1. Jen

    This sounds quite good!

    This past spring (it was far too hot & humid to bake over the summer, of course) I made a delicious ricotta pie from a “Lost Recipes” sort of book that the two of us devoured very quickly. Of course, that was a savoury pie, a main course for a luncheon or newly warming days. It definitely offered a lot of bang for the relatively small amount of time spent in the kitchen! Really, it is time to bring that one back to the table. 😉

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