How to Make 'Italian' Cheesecake

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About: Architect/designer based in SE Minnesota. Resource based problem solver... in other words, I always take a minute to peek in construction dumpsters :) ---the way some have to workout everyday... i have to m...

For years my gf has been perfecting this family recipe shared from a friend in college. The gentle variations have paid off. The most recent Italian Cheesecake was the best one yet! Here's a walk through the recipe.

The Goal. As always it is to remove any hurdles from cooking. Especially baking. Typically recipes provided here are general instructions but this one gets specific as it's a recipe worth sharing in detail.

'Italian' Clarification. A few really wonderful comments on the history of cheesecake and how this is an americanized verison of what it means to be an 'Italian' dessert. Thanks for all the comments. It really adds some fantastic detail. See below from ClaudioP:

The recipe looks delicious but...
...but Cheese Cake is not a traditional Italian recipe. Cheesecake was created in the USA for using a particular brand of cream cheese. Only from the '90s the cheesecake recipe was popularized in Italy, and before 10 years ago it was sold only in American-style restaurants (the first I found in Rome was around 1995 in an American steak-house restaurant). Probably it was prepared before also in restaurants around USA and NATO military bases (like near Pisa). Ricotta (goat or, more commonly, sheep ricotta), is used in Rome for filling the "crostata" (pie), usually with chocolate, or pears or "visciole" (a type of small and less sweet cherries). Mascarpone is used in the north of Italy, and is the main ingredient of "tiramisù", but personally I never heard of mascarpone used in other Italian cakes or pies. Indeed, there is not even an Italian name for "cheesecake", we still are calling it "cheesecake" using the English name :-)

Step 1: Ingredients - Built Around Ricotta

Wet Ingredients

  • (3 lg) Egg
  • (1 lb) Cream Cheese
  • (8 oz) Sour Cream
  • (15 oz) Ricotta
  • (1/4 lb) Melted Butter (unsalted + salt OR salted)

Dry Ingredients

Crust

  • (1 sleeve) Graham Crackers
  • 1 Fat Scoop of Shortening (or 1/8 lb of Butter) ---considering the 38lb bucket the way we go through shortening... not there yet. crisco pack is twice the $/lb in the 16oz. ok, for now :)

Super easy to have walmart pull all the ingredients with the new grocery pickup... here's a link to $10 off.

*recommendation from raphan - in italy the proper approach is to use goat's milk ricotta and mascarpone (rather than cream cheese).

Step 2: Mixing

Mixing is a simple process that starts with the wet ingredients and moves to the dry.

  1. Wet Ingredients - combine together in mixing bowl. --great if you have a kitchenaid but not necessary.
  2. Melt butter in the microwave.
  3. Dry Ingredients - take it from the top of the list and add ingredients moving down the list

For us, the stand mixer removes a barrier to baking by requiring less physical activity to mix. That said, both me and gf baked for years without a mixer. Everything can be incorporated in a bowl with a whisk + spatula.

Whisks

Step 3: Crust

Simple, Delicious Crust

  1. Grahams - break up the package into a mixing bowl
  2. Shortening - add a heaping scoop or 1/2 stick of soft butter
  3. Mash - use your hands to work the two ingredients together.

Graham Tips. Easiest to break up the graham crackers in the package. More or less grahams only impacts the thickness of the crust. Ideally the mixture of grahams + shortening clumps when you pinch it... but if it doesn't everything comes out perfectly well.

Step 4: Layer + Bake

Steps for baking the cheesecake.

  1. Layer into a springform pan---shown is a 9" pan (roughly 160 cu. inches)
  2. PreBake Crust for 15-25min
  3. Bake at 325F (160C) for 1 hour
  4. Rest in oven for 1 hour
  5. Rest on counter for 20 minutes minimum
  6. Refrigerate overnight

Water Bath. to avoid top cracking you'll need a water bath. That means baking your cheesecake with .5 to 1 inch of water around the baking pan using a larger pan. ---no need to use a water bath provided you don't mind a split surface. I see the chasms as space for filling...

Step 5: Enjoy + Thank You

What makes this cheesecake so perfect? the variety of the cheese! Nothing fancy. Ricotta has a beautiful texture and thickness that makes it a staple for our baking.

Freezing. Cheesecake freezes beautifully. Easy to make this cake well in advance or you can save small slices to mix with yogurt. A great breakfast.

Recipes. This is a family recipe shared from my gf's best college friend. It's classic Mediterranean. These three cookbooks are our standard reference material.

Our Dream. One day we'd like to have a cafe. Here's our new instagram @cafeoneday!

Thank you. Hope you've enjoyed this instructable as much as we did making + eating + sharing!
Here are a few more desserts we put together this month:

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    19 Discussions

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    quinnie16

    4 months ago on Step 5

    The recipe sounds delicious and I can't wait to make it!!! Thanks for all of your very helpful tips.
    I was wondering if you could use a first name instead of gf. A first name seems more respectful than gf,
    but that's just my opinion.
    Thanks again.

    2 replies
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    irmabquinnie16

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    If I am not mistaken, "gf" is just short for "girlfriend", I think.

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    jprussackquinnie16

    Reply 4 months ago

    Thanks! your feedback is well received. Will make a change on the next one :)

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    ClaudioP34

    4 months ago

    The recipe looks delicious but...

    ...but Cheese Cake is not a traditional Italian recipe. Cheesecake was created in the USA for using a particular brand of cream cheese. Only from the '90s the cheesecake recipe was popularized in Italy, and before 10 years ago it was sold only in American-style restaurants (the first I found in Rome was around 1995 in an American steak-house restaurant). Probably it was prepared before also in restaurants around USA and NATO military bases (like near Pisa).

    Ricotta (goat or, more commonly, sheep ricotta), is used in Rome for filling the "crostata" (pie), usually with chocolate, or pears or "visciole" (a type of small and less sweet cherries).

    Mascarpone is used in the north of Italy, and is the main ingredient of "tiramisù", but personally I never heard of mascarpone used in other Italian cakes or pies.

    Indeed, there is not even an Italian name for "cheesecake", we still are calling it "cheesecake" using the English name :-)

    2 replies
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    jprussackClaudioP34

    Reply 4 months ago

    Claudio - thank you for your note! The details are fantastic. A few people have shared some of the same ideas but no one as complete. I've quoted you in the introduction. Thanks again!

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    ClaudioP34jprussack

    Reply 4 months ago

    Glad to be helpful. Try to add pieces of chocolate and pieces of pear, and let us know :-)

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    WilliamM45

    5 months ago

    Italian ricotta cheese can be made with either cows or goats milk. Most Northern Italian ricotta is cows milk, as many Northern Italian cheeses are cows milk cheeses although there are some Northern Italian goat and sheep milk cheeses.. Southern Italian ricotta is usually goats milk. Sicilian ricotta is mostly goats milk as many Sicilian cheeses are goat or sheep's milk cheeses. There's even a hard ricotta called ricotta salata. This is more of a grating cheese and is inappropriate for Italian cheesecake. Here in the USA it's hard to find goat or sheep milk ricotta outside of Italian neighborhoods or a well stocked Italian delicatessen - market. When making an Italian cheesecake it's important that the ricotta be dry as some have more moisture than others. If necessary, line a strainer with a paper towel and dump the ricotta into it and allow it to drain over a bowl overnight in the refrigerator. Any whey, the cloudy liquid in the bottom of the container can be used for baking or cooking.

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    ClaudioP34WilliamM45

    Reply 4 months ago

    In central Italy ricotta is usually from sheep milk.

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    raphan

    5 months ago

    Miam !

    Italians add Mascarpone in equal part with Ricotta to decrease goat's taste, but the Ricotta we find outside of Italy is made with cows milk.

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    ClaudioP34raphan

    Reply 4 months ago

    Ricotta made with goat milk is more Greek than Italian (or more common in south of Italy), a tasty and more common ricotta is the one made with sheep milk.

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    jprussackraphan

    Reply 5 months ago

    Yes, we were working with cow milk... these are improvements we need to make!! -will add a note

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    altomic

    4 months ago

    could you add metric measurements for the rest of the world. thanks

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    jprussackVellegazelle

    Answer 4 months ago

    Thanks V for asking - 9" pan. Will update the notes

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    MaurizioT9

    5 months ago

    I'm sorry. Just because there is ricotta in the list of ingredients it doesn't mean that is an italian food.
    In the Italian menu there is not any cheese cake.

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    Remag123

    5 months ago on Step 5

    Great looking cake. Cream Cheese is not in Italian Cheesecake. Butter makes a better product than shortening.