Ricotta Filled Chocolate and Pecan Tart

By • March 7, 2011 36 Comments

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Author Notes: We don’t eat a lot of sweets in this house, so when a big food-friendly holiday comes along, we always make sure that everyone’s happy with the desserts. My sons invariably request a fruit pie, so I make either a pear or apple tart or pie, which everyone will enjoy for breakfast the next morning. No one here feels a strong attachment to pumpkin or sweet potato pie, but I like the color it adds to the table, so I often stir the standard pumpkin spices and salt into mashed, roasted butternut squash, to serve with dinner. Mr T loves pecan pie, but will gladly eat any pie or tart made with a lot of pecans. Me? I love chocolate, and any dessert made with ricotta, especially when the ricotta is homemade. This then, is for the two of us, though my oldest son, when he tasted it, declared it one of the best desserts I’d ever made. I found inspiration for this in the Sicilian wedding cake known as “Cassata”, which always has bits of candied orange peel in it. You could sprinkle on a generous handful of those instead of the marmalade, if you like. Enjoy! ;o)

Makes one 9-inch tart

  • 1 tart crust, blind baked (See note below)
  • 2 tablespoons yellow raisins
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 1 pound ricotta (preferably homemade), well drained (Let it sit over a cloth-lined colander for at least an hour.)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of one lemon, grated
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup marmalade or 1/4 cup diced candied orange peel (optional)
  • 1 ½ ounces dark chocolate, finely shaved, divided (I use a vegetable peeler for this.)
  • 1 cup pecan pieces, chopped (measured after chopping)
  1. In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the liqueur. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Blend in a food processor the ricotta, sugar, flour, vanilla extract, lemon zest, egg yolks and buttermilk until thoroughly combined and smooth. It will take two or three minutes, during which time you should scrape down the sides three or four times.
  3. Pour the liqueur off the raisins, pressing down on them; then add the liqueur to the ricotta mixture. Buzz for another few seconds to incorporate.
  4. Slather the marmalade on the bottom of the blind-baked shell. If using candied orange peel instead, sprinkle it on now.
  5. Sprinkle on about a third of the chocolate shavings, and the soused raisins.
  6. Spread on the flavored ricotta. It works best just to drop some large globs of it on, and then gently smear it across the chocolate-covered marmalade. It's sort of like icing a cake. Don't worry if some of the marmalade sticks to your spatula and gets into the ricotta. Once it's baked, no one will ever know. When you've gotten the ricotta smooth, sprinkle on the nuts.
  7. Bake in the bottom third of your oven for about 25 minutes. (Frame the outer crust, with foil or whatever other device you use, to keep it from getting too dark, if necessary. That will depend on how dark the outer crust got when you blind baked it.)
  8. Sprinkle on the rest of the chocolate shavings, lower the heat to 325 degrees, cover the tart lightly with foil, and bake for another 10 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool for at least two hours before serving.
  10. Enjoy!! ;o)
  11. N.B. I used the 3-2-1 ratio for pie crust in Michael Ruhlman’s exposition on the ratios compiled by Uwe Hestner, now retired chef-instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, in Ruhlman’s book entitled “Ratio.” I adapted the nut crust variation, grinding pecans with a few tablespoons of sugar, substituting a good bit of vanilla for part of the water, and using 2 parts of all-purpose flour to one part barley flour. I pressed the crust into the tart pan, but used a straight-sided small juice glass to roll it even. It smelled heavenly while blind-baking, like nut crescent cookies, because frankly, it's essentially the same dough. The ricotta filling has many of the same ingredients as the Crostata di Ricotta recipe in the old Time-Life "Cooking of Italy" recipe supplement, but I scaled down the amount of ricotta and altered the proportions to create the relatively thin layer of what is essentially a pound-cake flavored cheesecake. ;o)

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