Make Ahead

Ricotta Filled Chocolate and Pecan Tart

March  7, 2011
0 Ratings
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Makes one 9-inch tart
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. 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. Our sons, God bless them, will happily eat just about any dessert their served. I found inspiration for this in the Sicilian wedding cake known as “Cassata” that my mother often made for winter dinner parties. The traditional cake has bits of candied orange peel in it. Here, I just use marmalade, for convenience. Enjoy! ;o)

What You'll Need
  • 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. This recipe was created by Food52 member AntoniaJames.
  11. N.B. I use this one - a nut-rich press in crust that smells and tastes like the pecan crescents we make during the December holiday season: 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)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jo B
    Jo B
  • annarose
  • testkitchenette
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • SallyCan

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

See problem, solve problem. Ask questions; question answers. Disrupt, with kindness, courtesy and respect. ;o)

38 Reviews

Jo B. January 11, 2016
I'm a little late in saying I made two of these at Christmas (2015) and the recipe is a definite keeper. I did not tweak except to cut back on the chocolate, which my husband suggested might not be such a good idea the next time I make it! I used home candied orange peel but think marmalade would be delicious, too. My only worry was that after I blended the ricotta mixture in the food processor, it was definitely pourable, not at all gloppable. I did drain the ricotta (Polly-O) but got just one drop of liquid after at least an hour!). But no worries, the tart set up just fine. All the flavors worked delicously together, and it's a handsome tart, too. Thanks!
AntoniaJames January 12, 2016
Thank you, Jo B. So glad the tart set up well for you, and that you liked how it tastes. I love the idea of using candied orange peel. I often have extra on hand (I freeze it), which is not always the case with marmalade.
I'm always happy to hear when my recipes have been a success. Cheers, AntoniaJames
annarose November 29, 2013
Hi there-- I'm planning on making this later today, to be eaten tomorrow. How should this be stored overnight? In the fridge or on the counter ?
AntoniaJames November 29, 2013
You should put it in the fridge, after cooling completely on the counter. Hope you enjoy it! ;o)
testkitchenette March 12, 2011
This is utterly amazing and I love your little touch of buttermilk in there too!
AntoniaJames March 12, 2011
Thanks so much. I really like buttermilk with citrus (in fact, I posted an orange buttermilk sherbet here a week or two before I made this) . . . . plus, I thought just a hint of tangy flavor would go well with the marmalade and dark chocolate. I use a Bulgarian buttermilk (which is extra tangy) by the way, in dishes like this. It's great stuff if you can get it. ;o)
TheWimpyVegetarian March 11, 2011
Oh how I wish I could eat nuts! What would this be like without them? Or do you have any substitutions you would recommend? Beautiful photo and recipe, AJ!!
hardlikearmour March 11, 2011
What if you subbed pine nuts - would be very Italian, don't you think?
AntoniaJames March 11, 2011
I would try pine nuts! A traditional cassata alla Siciliana doesn't have any nuts in it, but the crostata di ricotta, which is very similar to the filling in this pie, often is covered in pine nuts. I'd use a regular crust, with perhaps some toasted wheat germ in it and a bit of barley flour, which both give it a nutty taste. I do hope you try it!! And thank you, as always, for your kind comment. ;o)
TheWimpyVegetarian March 11, 2011
Pine nuts I can do. I've been adding wheat germ to some of my breads lately, so I think I'll use your idea of adding it to the crust along with the barley flour. I've added this great sounding recipe to my list to try!
AntoniaJames March 11, 2011
I actually think that pine nuts might even be better, as they have a sort of savoriness to them that could go really well with the dark chocolate and the vanilla-pound-cake-flavored filling. . . not to mention, they'd be unexpected. Go for it!! ;o)
SallyCan March 10, 2011
Yes, that is one gorgeous tart! Thanks for the memory ;)
AntoniaJames March 11, 2011
Thank you, Sally! I can taste and smell the fragrance and remember the texture of Mother's cassata as I sit here tonight . . . . and I can see us making it, too. Very, very good memories, indeed. ;o) P.S. Do you remember, did she make her sour cream cake in loaves for this?
Midge March 9, 2011
This looks wonderful. Love that you were inspired by cassata cake, one of my all-time favorite desserts.
AntoniaJames March 9, 2011
Hey, thanks so much, Midge. You know, I've never seen Cassata alla Siciliana on a restaurant menu or in a pasticceria in the US or anywhere else, nor have I been served it at any dinner party other than those my mother's. It seems that cassata hasn't received the recognition it deserves, given its deliciousness. Pound cake, liqueur-flavored ricotta, and just a bit of dark chocolate . . . . what's not to love?! ;o)
Midge March 9, 2011
Come to the think of it, I haven't either. The cake I grew up with though is a very Americanized version, almost like a trifle, made by my Italian grandmother. But I love it!
hardlikearmour March 9, 2011
There's a version of Cassata at Papa Haydn in Portland. It uses coffee and espresso to soak the sponge cake, and a bittersweet chocolate ricotta filling. It's good, but your version sounds better!
AntoniaJames March 9, 2011
Yes, I've heard that many Americans make it with a sponge cake instead of a pound cake, which would make it much lighter and more like a trifle. I think the buttery, lemon-scented, ricotta-soaked pound cake is what makes the dessert unique, which is why I tried to replicate that in the ricotta layer here. ;o)
AntoniaJames March 9, 2011
HLA that cassata at Papa Haydn's sounds good, but it doesn't sound like a cassata to me . . . . though I am admittedly no expert. The plain pound cake and the little bits of orange peel with the little bits of chocolate, in that white ricotta background, are what make it so good. But hey, I love creativity and interpretation and extrapolation, so more power to Papa Haydn. ;o)
thirschfeld March 8, 2011
looks wonderful, glad you got freed up to get this posted, saving it to my recipes as we speak.
AntoniaJames March 9, 2011
Thank you so much, Mr. H. I'm honored that you're saving it!! ;o)
caddysnax March 8, 2011
that cassata recipe is classic and one of my favorite desserts too. i'd make more orange peel just for this though the marmalade sounds pretty good.
AntoniaJames March 8, 2011
You could use candied orange peel instead, or any citrus peel for that matter, but I'd use a fair bit of it, to get the citrus flavor and the chewy texture. ;o)
TasteFood March 8, 2011
This sounds amazing, AJ!
AntoniaJames March 8, 2011
Thanks, TF! I have to agree with BigBear that it turned out particularly well . . . . . ;o)
healthierkitchen March 7, 2011
It is a gorgeous tart!
AntoniaJames March 8, 2011
Thank you, HK!! You noticed . . . . .;o)
fiveandspice March 7, 2011
Wow! This looks awesome! I can't think of any other way to put it!
AntoniaJames March 8, 2011
Thanks so much, fiveandspice. According to the two other family members who made short work of it with a lot of happy food-eating sounds, it tastes pretty good, too. ;o)
BigBear March 7, 2011
The jam on the bottom is killer. Quite possibly one of your best desserts, ever.
AntoniaJames March 9, 2011
Thank you so much. Glad you liked it. ;o)
drbabs March 7, 2011
Fabulous, AJ!
AntoniaJames March 7, 2011
Thank you, Dr. B! ;o)
hardlikearmour March 7, 2011
Wow, AJ! Your talent amazes me as always.
AntoniaJames March 7, 2011
Thanks, HLA! The feeling is mutual, of course. ;o)
Fairmount_market March 7, 2011
This sounds delicious! I'm tempted to try it with some homemade hearty kiwi jam I have in the pantry.
AntoniaJames March 7, 2011
Oh, that sounds divine . . . .. just the though of the tart kiwi + dark chocolate makes my mouth water. But wait, you said Kiwi Jam?? I've never made kiwi jam, and the kiwis at the market are just gorgeous these days! I feel a project coming on . . . . . ;o)
TheWimpyVegetarian March 11, 2011
If you make some, AJ, you gotta post it!!