Lemon-Ricotta Crostata with Mascarpone
by: Domenica Marchetti
There’s almost always a ricotta pie of some sort on our Easter table. When I was growing up it was my mother’s pastiera, a dense, lattice-topped torte filled with a mixture of fresh ricotta, beaten eggs, sugar and cooked wheat berries, and flavored with a dash of cinnamon and a splash of Punch Abruzzo liqueur. I liked it. It’s possible I didn’t love it (don’t tell my mamma).
Personally, I prefer a simpler ricotta crostata, and this one fits the bill. It is bright with lemon zest and super creamy thanks to a healthy dollop of mascarpone whipped into the filling. The crostata puffs up quite a bit as it bakes, and then settles back down once out of the oven ~ almost like it’s taking a deep breath and then exhaling. The result is a buttery shortbread-like crust cradling a plush interior. Well, for all its simplicity it is a beautifully rich tart.
If you can find sheep’s milk ricotta, use it, as its sweet flavor goes particularly well here. Otherwise, cow’s milk ricotta is a good substitute; just be sure it is well drained to prevent a soggy filling. Shower the crostata with confectioners’ sugar right before serving.
Yields 8-10 servings.
Make the dough: Put the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse briefly to combine. Distribute the butter around the bowl and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Add the whole egg and egg yolks and process until the mixture just begins to clump together in the work bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and briefly knead it together. Without overworking it, shape the dough into a disk, patting rather than kneading it. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until well chilled.
Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and cut it into 2 portions, one slightly larger than the other. Rewrap the smaller portion and return it to the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the large portion into a 28-cm (11-inch) circle about 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick or slightly thicker. Carefully wrap the dough around the rolling pin and drape it over a 23- cm (9-inch) fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Use the rolling pin or the flat of your hand to press around the perimeter of the pan to cut off any excess dough. Put the lined tart pan in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 175° C (350° F).
Make the filling: In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, mascarpone, whole egg and yolks, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice and zest. Using a stand mixer or a handheld beater, beat the ingredients on high speed for about 1 minute, or until thoroughly combined and fluffy.
Assemble and bake the crostata: Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator. Scrape the filling into the shell and smooth it with a silicone spatula. Roll out the reserved piece of dough into a 10-inch round about 1/8 inch thick or slightly thicker, and cut it into 3/4-inch-wide strips with a fluted pastry wheel. Carefully place the strips over the filled tart shell in a lattice-weave pattern, gently pressing the ends of the strips into the sides of the tart shell. Use the palm of your hand to trim off the ends of the strips. Gather up the discards, wrap in plastic and return them to the refrigerator. They can be used to make cookies (see Cook’s Notes).
Bake the crostata for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is puffed and just set. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Remove the ring of the tart pan and let the crostata cool completely before transferring it to a decorative platter. Dust liberally with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
COOK’S NOTES: If you don't plan to serve the crostata within a couple of hours of baking, cover with foil and store it in the refrigerator. Bring it back to room temperature before serving (although it's also really good cold).
You will likely have leftover dough; don’t toss it! Reroll it and use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Bake at 175°C / 350°F for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned and set.