Introduction: How to Make Italian-Style, Mini Ricotta Cheesecake Pies Using Tuna Cans

About: Cathi Iannone is a Brooklyn-based, designer, Italian-American home cook, and creator of the Italian-American food & lifestyle blog, The Brooklyn Ragazza. She specializes in local and seasonal, Cucina Povera-s…
This time of the year is one of my absolute favorites for Italian specialty recipes!!  If you have grown up in an Italian family, or know someone that has, then Napolitano Easter Pie is no stranger to you. Traditionally, it's made in a large spring form pan using a pie crust filled with a flavored ricotta cheese cake, wheat berries, and various fruits accented throughout. The result is a light & fluffy cheese-cakey (but, not dense) filling wrapped in a buttery crust.

If you know this pie, then you are probably used to seeing a latticework on the top of the pie, but instead,  I used mini garnish cutters to decorate my mini pies, and I really like the results! I used cornmeal in place of the traditional wheat berries, and I love the texture it created! There is a generous amount of sweet ricotta cheese to render these pies incredibly most and cheesy.

So, what makes a tuna can any different (or, better) than muffin tins, you might ask??  Well, I find tuna cans to be more accurate in dimension (as it is lower, and wider), so that it is a larger pie's perfect mini-me. Muffin tins are more narrow and deep. I find that I don't even use muffin tins much anymore for mini pies, as the tuna can has served me much better in form.  Give it a try!

If you want to treat yourself to a rich, Napolitano-style, Easter pie just like a pasticcieria in Italy, put on the espresso and make these pies, baby!!!!

  • 1 package of refrigerated pie crust (store bought)
  • 1 can of sour cherries (Pitted, in water, or thin syrup)
  • 1 package of corn muffin mix (requiring only water, or milk)
  • 2 1/2 cups of whole milk ricotta cheese (drained)
  • 1/2 cup of mascarpone cheese, softened, room temp. (may substitute cream cheese)
  • 3 eggs (separated)
  • 1/3 cup of granulated sugar, plus more for dusting
  • zest of one blood orange (may use traditional orange)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons of butter for greasing  tuna cans (may use shortening)
  • All purpose flour for dusting work surface

6 empty tuna cans (thoroughly cleaned)

Step 1:

The perfect size for mini pies and even mini pizzas!!

Step 2: go!!!  Get all your ingredients and tuna cans in place!  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Step 3:

Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface and place your tuna cans on top of the dough to trace out your circles.

Trace one-inch outside the circumference of the tuna can to allow for the bottom, and the walls of the pie.

Step 4:

Carefully press the dough into each tuna can using your knuckle to push into the bottom and inside walls of the can. Smooth out any folds or seams.

Step 5:

Roll out the other piece of dough in the box to cut the tops for your pies. Once you cut your tops, you may get decorative with tiny cookie cutters or garnish cutters, or even use a bottle top to cut small circles.  This is the fun part!!

Step 6:

Seaprate the whites from the egg yolks and set the egg whites aside in a small bowl.

In a large glass bowl, combine the requirements for the corn muffin mix (mine just required water) with the egg yolks and stir to incorporate.

(If your corn muffin mix requires and egg, then reduce one egg from this recipe, so you will still have 3 yolks)

Step 7:

Add the zest of one blood orange and stir to incorporate.

Step 8:

Stir in the ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup at a time. Add the mascarpone, sugar and cinnamon, and stir thoroughly.

Step 9:

Fill each pie crust half way with the batter.

Step 10:

Add cherries, and gently press down on the mixture with the back of a spoon to fill in any air holes.

Step 11:

Top each pie with the decorative tops, pinching and sealing the edges,  trimming any  extra dough and carefully tucking in to the inside of the tuna can.

Brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar.

Step 12:

Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, or until desired golden brown color is achieved.

Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes.

To remove pies from tins; carefully run a butter knife around the circumference of each pie to gently loosen and pies should come out easily.

Buon appetito!!

Serious Eats Pi Day Pie Contest

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Serious Eats Pi Day Pie Contest