Being a Jewish Chicana, I've never had a nonna but, if I had, I'd like to think this is the cake she would have made to welcome my gluten-intolerant husband into the family. It's essentially a Sicilian cheesecake, made with fresh ricotta and hazelnut flour, and of course a little lemon zest. Its humble looks belie a wonderfully tender crumb and sophisticated, not-too-sweet flavor. —gluttonforlife
Generously butter the sides and bottom of an 8” springform pan. Dust the sides lightly with hazelnut flour. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter this, too.
Whisk together egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy, then whisk in vanilla. Stir in ricotta, lemon zest and hazelnut flour until well blended. Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form and fold that in.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with salt until they hold firm peaks. Fold this into ricotta mixture in three increments, trying not to overmix.
Pour into springform pan and smooth top evenly (so it's not lumpy like mine, above!). Sprinkle a layer of demerara sugar over the top. This forms a lovely crunchy crust.
Bake for 20 minutes; rotate and bake for another 20. Cake is done when slightly springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Delicious served warm or room temperature, either plain or accompanied by fresh or macerated fruit and/or topped with a dollop of crème fraiche or a small scoop of ricotta.
*Ricotta should be on the dry side. If yours is very watery, line a colander with cheesecloth, place the ricotta inside, and set it in the sink to drain out some of the liquid.