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.
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.
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.
This is a question: 35 mins. Is the TOTAL baking time, right?
Pie is in the oven, so please answer quickly if possible.
That should be the total baking time. Sorry I couldn’t reply sooner! How did it turn out?
Thanks! I figured it out and the pie turned out good. It just needed a little more sugar to my taste, so I am making a slightly sweeter version tonight with the remaining ricotta I have.
Is this pie sometimes made with a crust?
The recipe said 1 lb. ricotta. In the video you say 1 1/4 pound ricotta. Which is it. Also, in the video you do not mention the lemon zest.
Hi Linda, yes the video is for the recipe without the lemon, the recipe is near identical. I mention it in the text (not the same I know!). Hopefully I can get another video done. I’ve updated the recipe to read 1 1/4. Thanks for pointing that out!
Does anyone know what size springform pan to use?
Hi Christine! I used a 9inch for the recipe. 🙂
Any idea how many calories this pie has? Thanks
Hi Rheta, I’m sorry I don’t have a calorie count for the pie. All I can say is it tastes great. 🙂
I cannot wait to make this! Do you know if it can be stored in the freezer as well if I doubled my recipe?
Hi Joanna, that is a great question and I honestly have never frozen it, so I’m not sure. I would be afraid it would change the texture. If you do try it let me know what the results are! Sorry I couldn’t give a better answer for you.
This looks delicious and easy! Can I substitute part-skim ricotta for whole milk ricotta as it is all I have?
Hi Maria, yes you can, but the texture won’t be the same. I tried the part-skim once and I much preferred the whole milk. If I recall, the skim-milk had a more gritty texture due to the lack of fat. Hope that helps and I hope you enjoy the recipe!! Thanks!
I am trying a 8×10 pan. Should I still let it bake for same amount of time? How will I know when it is fully cooked?
Hi Crystal, I’ve never made it in an 8×10 pan but I would think the time would be about the same to bake. You’ll know it’s ready when the inside is not runny – probably use a toothpick to check, that’s what I would do. You can see in my video it will be a little brown on top when done.
Let me know how it turns out!
Hello! Can I make this pie the day before and store it in the fridge to serve the day after? Thank you!
Yes, absolutely! Keeping it in the refridgerator is totally fine. 🙂
Has anyone tried this cake in an Instant Pot?
Can I use a gluten free 1:1 mix for the flour?
Hi Lynn, that is a great question but I am not sure. I havent made it gluten free and not sure which type of flour would be best. I have seen many baking recipes with almond flour but not sure of the ratio.
If you try one and it turns out let us know!
How do you remove the cake from the pan
If in a regular pie pan I would leave it and serve from it. If using a spring form pan it is much better to use if you want to have it removed so the sides are exposed. Let me know of that helps!
I so looked forward to Easter when my MEma would make this cake. She would put a lattice top on the cake.
That would be pretty! Thanks for sharing your special memory.
Delicious!!! Can’t wait to make it again! Thanks for sharing. I used a 6 in springform pan. Baked at 350 for 1hour.
Hi Corrine, I am so happy you enjoyed it! Thanks for commenting and trying the recipe!
It doesn’t say what size spring form pan…I used the one I had and will taste my cheese cake later it looks a little thinner than I would like. We’ll see. It was easy to make. No crust surprised me…
I used a 9″, but you can cetainly go smaller. One of our readers used a 6″ and liked it that way. Hope that helps!
Can you use orange zest, and about how much sugar to make it sweeter? On curfew and lockdown here. Can’t get to store. Don’t want to waste my Ricotta 👍
Hi Jane, sorry for the late reply. I wish I had a specific amount for you but to make it sweeter comes down to personal taste. I would probably add two more Tbsp. However you could always just add more powdered sugar on top if it isn’t sweet enough. 🙂 Stay safe during the lock down. We just got a Stay at Home directive from our Governor.
Hi ,I’m making today ,In lockdown in Australia no visitor, so can I freeze the leftover is any !!
I hope it turned out! If you have left overs and want to freeze it I would do it. There is debate over freezing anything with ricotta but I’d rather freeze it than let it go to waste. Let me know how it turned out!
Any advice if I wanted to try making this with a crust?
Stay safe, everyone!
I have never made it with a crust, sorry! I am also terrible at making crusts so I wouldn’t try to myself! Lol!
I will be making this for the first time this Sunday for Easter. In the text before the recipe you mention using confectionary sugar but the recipe only calls it “white sugar.” Can you please clarify granulated or confectionery should be mixed into the pie?
Hi Lisa, the confectioners is for sprinkling on top before serving. The white sugar is used in the recipe as an ingredien when mixing. Thanks and I hope everyone likes the recipe!
Would it work with a graham cracker crust?
Hi Nicole, i have never tried it woth a graham cracker crust but I think it could be a nice option!
Love this recipe. Made it multiple times. I’ve tried with lemon, lime and orange zest. All came out great. I did use a water bath and 12″ spring form pan. This gave me a thinner pie. After the release and cool down, I used 1″ cookie cutter to make dot pies. This was a hit over by the local firehouse last week. And I got to eat the remains with family. Thanks for the recipes.
Thanks Dan, That is so wonderful and totally made my day to hear that! Such a great idea with the dot pies!! Thanks and have a great weekend!
How do I know it’s cooked right at 35 minutes it was shaky and still looked like mixture?
Cook it a bit longer, you certainly dont want it runny. Do the toothpick check and if it is not sticking you are good. Hope that helps!
Hi is there a way to estimate what the ricotta would be in cups versus
Hi Dawn, I did a quick conversion (and updated my recipe). 1.25 lbs of the ricotta would be 20 oz or approximately 2 1/2 cups! Hope that helps! Enjoy!
This was fantastic. I only had 1 pound of ricotta so substituted the other 1/4 pound with cream cheese. Can’t wait to try it again with all ricotta. Also used Monk fruit instead of sugar. Thanks for a yummy and easy dessert!
Thanks so much! I am so glad you liked it and tried it with cream cheese!
Just made and eaten. Divine! Thank you for the recipe. I adapted it to what I had on my fridge (chanco cheese instead of ricotta) and added some almonds to the recipe. Otherwise just followed your fantastic instructions! Super yummie!
Thank you! So glad you like it, sounds delicious how you made it!
Hi, I’m so excited to make this today, just wondering was it self raising flour or plain flour?
Hi! Regular flour will work well. Hope it comes out!
This is delicious. I added extra lemon extract. The pie didn’t rise more than 1/2”. But the taste was amazing!
It’s cooling right now and the whole house smells wonderful! Longest hour ever waiting for it!
After it has cooled, and I’ve served some, how should the rest be stored? Refrigerator? Room temperature? Covered with plastic wrap, tinfoil, airtight container?
Hope to get a reply very soon.
Hi Staci, I hope this gets to you in time! I would store in the fridge with an air tight container ideally. Otherwise I’d use plastic wrap as a cover. Enjoy!
Wonderful recipe. Where has this pie been all my life? I love how it uses very little sugar and flour. We are on WW and I have no problem fitting this into my point out. Only 6 points per serving for any other dieters out there. I made it just as directed and was thrilled with the results. Thank you for making your recipe so user friendly. Looked up on google how to beat egg whites correctly and with that knowledge this pie was so easy to accomplish. I am subscribing to your web site and hope to try many more of your Italian recipes. Grazie
Thank you! So glad you liked it!
Hi, I am looking forward to making this great sounding dessert, however, perhaps because I am later getting it, recipe ingredients were missing. First they were covered by advertisements, when they left, nothing was there?!🤪
Gotta love ads… there should be a print option too that might help but the recipe should reappear regardless. Hope you enjoy the recipe!
How do you store this after baking? Thank you
After letting it cool, I store mine in the fridge in an airtight container. Hope that helps!
Using a springform 8”
Have u ever used a water bath to bake this in?
I have not used a water bath to bake it. I’m not familiar with that technique, very curious now!
I want to try baking this in a pyrex pie plate. Will it be okay?
Hi Bob, Yes, that will be fine. I use a pie plate as well. Just keep in mind, the bigger the pie plate the thinner. But you’ll see in my images that I used a pie plate. Not sure if the one in the picture was Pyrex, but pretty sure it is. I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we do here!