Learn how to make Italian lemon ricotta pie with this simple recipe. If you are not familiar with what a lemon ricotta pie is or have never made one yourself, don’t worry, neither had I until a few years into my marriage.
This is in my opinion one of the easiest Italian dessert recipes I know of and I encourage you to give it a try. This recipe is a crust-less ricotta pie, making it even easier to make.
If you prefer not to use lemon, simply omit it for a regular Italian ricotta pie recipe.
How to Make Italian Lemon Ricotta Pie
In this post, I provide step by step instructions for how to make ricotta pie, and I also have a video as well. However, the video omits the lemon zest – but just add the zest to the other ingredients when mixing… it’s all in the instructions below.
Like all my Italian recipes I share, this lemon ricotta pie is very easy and simple. Do not be intimidated! This is a wonderful pie that is perfect for any holiday or really, any time of the year.
What Does Lemon Ricotta Pie Taste Like?
A ricotta pie recipe is somewhat similar to a cheesecake, mainly in texture and form. I go into the details of texture a little further down. As you can imagine, yes it has lemon but it is not overpowering.
If you think of a lemon pie recipe, thoughts of lemon meringue pie may come to mind. That is not how a lemon ricotta pie tastes. The lemon added is the zest of a whole Meyer lemon, which equates to a tbs of zest. The lemon flavor is very subtle and delightful.
Also, do not confuse this ricotta pie with ricotta cake which is like a regular cake made with lots of flour. If you like lemon flavored desserts, you should check out my Italian lemon cake recipe too!
You can see my original photo above from over 10 years ago (taken with a basic point and shoot, but at least you’ll see what it looks like without filters, enhancing etc!).Click here if you want to skip the cooking tips and start the recipe.
Italian Ricotta Pie Filling
This is a traditional Italian recipe (very popular at Easter and Christmas time) and very simple to make. The most unique ingredient would be the ricotta cheese and confectioners sugar which you can easily get at any grocery store.
The filling is sweet, but not overly sweet in taste. This recipe provides the perfect balance between the tangy lemon zest and sweetness of the filling – making it just right.
The ricotta pie filling consists of:
- Ricotta cheese (whole milk)
- White sugar
- White flour
- pinch salt
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 egg whites
- grated zest of 1 lemon
You will want to use whole milk ricotta cheese for the best results. The whole milk provides the creamy texture. Using skim milk or low fat milk might be tempting but it will not taste as good.
Easy to Make Italian Ricotta Pie Recipe
Here are the basic steps for making a ricotta pie.
- Separate the egg whites and yolks. Save the whites in a bowl.
- Mix all the ingredients together in a medium bowl, except the egg whites.
- Whisk the egg whites until they have stiff peaks.
- Then you fold the egg whites in gently making sure not to over mix.
- Pour the mixture into a floured spring form pan or cake pan.
- Bake it, then let it cool and add the confectioners sugar or other toppings prior to serving.
Isn’t that the easiest ricotta pie recipe you’ve ever tried? Everyone will be impressed.
The cake will deflate a little when you take it our of the oven, do not be alarmed.
A No Crust Lemon Ricotta Pie
As you can see in the image above, there is no crust for this pie.
Many people think that there is supposed to be a crust for the pie, but this recipe is for a crust-less ricotta pie. The pie will hold it’s own shape without a crust. I believe this is the authentic way to make a ricotta pie, but I’m sure others may have their own point of view. 😃
Ricotta Pie vs. Cheesecake
You may have heard ricotta pie compared to cheesecake. While this is true, there are a few key differences.
- For starters, the consistency isn’t as dense as a cheesecake.
- It also has a greater moisture content giving it a characteristically slightly wet texture, almost a mix between a custard and cheesecake.
- Cheesecakes are generally taller, while ricotta pie is a thinner pie. You can see this in my images.
- Lemon ricotta pie uses only ricotta cheese. Traditionally cheesecakes use cream cheese, unless it is a ricotta cheesecake.
How Much Lemon Zest to use in a Ricotta Pie?
In my ricotta pie recipe I use the fresh lemon zest of a whole Meyer lemon. The zest of a whole lemon is almost equal to one tablespoon of lemon zest. If you only need a half of a lemon such as my lemon and asparagus pasta recipe which uses zest in the alfredo sauce, then only use 2 teaspoons of zest.
Simply add the lemon zest in the first step when mixing all the ingredients together.
Surprisingly the lemon zest does not overpower the flavor of the pie. It adds a subtle flavor that makes this desert bright and refreshing.
If you don’t have lemon zest, you can add a 1/2 tsp of lemon extract. Lemon zest and lemon extract have a slightly tangy flavor which is balanced with the sweetness of the pie.
If you choose to use lemon juice instead, it will have a sweeter taste and won’t bring forth the lemon smell as much as extract or zest. This article here explains the difference between the two very well.
Toppings to Use on the Lemon Ricotta Pie
Once the ricotta pie has finished baking, you can add additional toppings besides just confectioners sugar.
Try to use fresh fruit such as:
Some people even top with chocolate, although I have not. I recommend adding the toppings once the pie has fully cooled, and it is ready to serve.
How to Store Ricotta Pie
You can store ricotta pie of any kind in the fridge for up to 3 days in an air tight container. It is best served at room temperature, so take it out 20 minutes prior to serving.
I do not recommend freezing lemon ricotta pie due to the moisture content. However if you do, it will probably last 3-4 months. Make sure it is in an air tight container with minimal air.
What to Serve with Italian Lemon Ricotta Pie?
Italian lemon ricotta pie will always serve well with a cup of fresh coffee or espresso. It is a light pie, so it can easily pair with other desserts of any kind, including chocolate wafers or other finger cookies.
It will also go well with other fruits which is common for Italians to eat as part of their after dinner course.
Other Italian Dessert Recipes
Italian toto cookies are chocolate cookies covered with light icing containing a touch of whiskey!
Try these Italian almond biscotti, a true authentic recipe.
If you want easy, try my Butterball cookies with pecans. It’s out of this world!
Delicious anginetti cookies with a hint of lemon are an Italian favorite for weddings, Christmas and other special occasions.
Where’s the Lemon in my Ricotta pie Video?
Unfortunately the video below shows the recipe without lemon, but you can still follow the video just make sure to add in the lemon zest per my instructions.
Note: the video does not mention the pan size I used. I used a 9 inch for the video.
Enjoy my recipe for Lemon Ricotta Pie and let me know how you like it in the comments below.
Italian Lemon Ricotta Pie Recipe
- 1 1/4 lb ricotta cheese (whole milk) (20oz or approx 2 1/2 cups)
- 3 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tbsp white flour
- pinch salt
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 egg whites
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- Preheat oven to 375F
- Separate the egg whites and egg yolks (keep the egg whites in a separate bowl)
- Combine the ricotta, sugar, flour, salt, lemon zest and egg yolks (only the yolks), in a large mixing bowl.
- Beat until very smooth without lumps or clumps
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. If you have an electric mixer, use the whisk that came with it.
- Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the ricotta mixture.
- Spray the cake pan or spring form pan with cooking spray or butter and dust with some flour. Once evenly coated dump any excess flour into the sink by simply tapping the sides.
- Add the ricotta filling to the pie pan
- Bake for 35 minutes uncovered at 375F
- Let cool for 1 hour to allow pie to set and settle (it will deflate)
- Before serving, top with confectioners sugar (don’t be shy). If you have fresh blueberries or other fruit, add these either on top or as a side dish.
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Original post Nov. 2015. Most recently updated January 18, 2023.