For most of us, pizza means just one thing: a round disk of dough topped with tomato, mozzarella and other goodies and baked in a hot oven. But ‘pizza’ really just means pie, and can refer also to Italian cheesecake, typically made with ricotta and eggs, flavored with sugar and other things, called pizza dolce di ricotta. Angelina made a simple, crustless version of this iconic dish, and while her exact recipe seems to have been lost, I’ve been able to recapture the taste of her dish through some trial and error. Here the basic recipe:
For a small pie to serve 4-6 people
500g (1 lb.) ricotta cheese
150g (3/4 cup) sugar, or more to taste
Zest of a small lemon, finely grated
A good pour of sweet anise liqueur (anisette or sambuca)
Mix all the ingredients together until they form a smooth and uniform whole. Pour into a greased pie pan and bake at 180°C/350°F for about 45 minutes, or until completely set and golden brown on top.
Allow to cool before serving. (The pie will deflate a bit as it cools, which is perfectly normal.)
Angelina would sometimes add bits of semi-sweet chocolate to the mixture and it is also very common to add bits of canditi (citron)—one or the other but not both. Some recipes call for a bit of cinnamon and/or vanilla extract, which (to my memory) Angelina never did.
The ricotta-to-egg ration in the recipes you can find around the internet vary wildly. Obviously, the more egg, the more ‘custard-y’ the resulting pie. Conversely, the less egg, the more ‘cheese-y’ the pie will taste. I find that a 1 egg per 100 gram ratio—besides being easy to remember—gives a fine, balanced result. Likewise, you can add more or less liqueur to suit your taste.
Some recipes also call for a crust of pasta frolla, or pastry dough, but Angelina never made her pizza dolce that way.
Those of you who know Neapolitan cuisine will no doubt realize that pizza dolce is essentially a vastly simplified version of the classic pastiera napoletana, the traditional ricotta cheese cake made in Naples and environs around Easter time. (I made one for Easter this year, but sadly forgot to photograph it, so I didn’t blog about it…) But although some Italian-Americans do associate Italian cheesecake with Easter, in our family it was enjoyed year round. After all, it’s so easy to make, there’s just no reason not to!
- 500g (1 lb.) ricotta cheese
- 5 eggs
- 150g (3/4 cup) sugar, or more to taste
- Zest of a small lemon, finely grated
- A good pour of sweet anise liqueur (anisette or sambuca)
- Mix all the ingredients together until they form a smooth and uniform whole. Pour into a greased pie pan and bake at 180°C/350°F for about 45 minutes, or until completely set and golden brown on top.
- Allow to cool before serving. (The pie will deflate a bit as it cools, which is perfectly normal.)
I know these comments are old but I was wondering if someone could let me know if they have ever left out the lemon zest, and if I could substitute vanilla for the liquor. I also want to double the recipe. Could I put this in a 12 x 9 pan or should I use 2 pans. Thanks to anyone out there who could help me out. This is for a family reunion two days from now.
Dear Maria, This may be coming too late to help, but the lemon zest while it lends a nice flavor in my opinion, can certainly be left out and vanilla substituted for the anisette if you prefer that flavor profile. If you double the recipe, you may find you need to increase the baking time but otherwise no reason you can’t use a single pan. Best of luck!
I make in a 9×13 glass pan with mini semisweet morsels and I fine grind my sugar in my cuisinart… the anisette perfects it!!!!
Fantastic, Patty. Glad you enjoyed it!
This does resemble Luis’a Louisa’s Cake in some ways – although this one more pie-like. Will definitely try it with my fresh goat ricotta from the market. Thanks, Frank!
Hope you enjoy it, David. We certainly did as kids.
ciao Franco, every Christmas and Easter my mother makes Pizza Dolce for my husband and sister in law and for my brother and I she make the Pizza Rustica….she uses the same recipe that you use. Delizioso…
I guess great minds think alike, as they say.
Interesting ….I have been following my mothers recipe for many years …Her recipe origanited in APULIA region of italy …town of TORITTO in BARI…Our Family Recipe is basicly the same …We Use 8 oz`s Ricotta plus 4 0z`s of cream cheese /marscopine and six medium eggs ..( one can also add three table spoons all purpose flower ) optional we like to use a gram cracker crust ….either store bought or we crush chocolate wafers and apply to a buttered pan …350 deg. for 45 to 50 minutes depending on oven variations ….orange extract is a favorite in our house …but any can be used ,vanilla almond etc etc . This is a traditional Easter dessert along with …Pizza Rustica another version made with genoa salami and a top crust …
Sounds nice, Anthony. And I love pizza rustica. I plan to blog about it come Eastertime.
Frank – Have you posted your Pizza Rustica recipe anywhere? Our family recipe died with mother, I’m afraid. I’d love to have a “family-tested” recipe for it.
Yes indeed, Antonio! Just a couple of weeks ago. It’s a featured post on the front page of the site. Thanks for your comment!
Thanks for the terrific options! We always out candied oranges and candied, green citrons (yuck!) in ours. I’ve looked forever for this recipe. The name, apparently, varies from region to region. Now that I found this one, I can’t wait till next Easter. I’m making it anyway.
Making this today!
Of all the good recipes here in the archive, this one is my favorite. Since you first sent it to us, I've made it at least monthly. It is so easy to put together that waiting for a special occasion is unnecessary. This sweet pizza is just marvelous. Thank you so much for introducing it to us.
What a dish, pizza is awesome.My brother loves it very much. in other words he is mad for it.i will surely prepare i for him.
My mother and I found your site while searching for a “pizza dolce” recipe – my mom is from Pulia, where they call it “calzone” or “italian cheesecake”.
Each name does not quite evoke the custard like cake. It's almost like a flan. We were so excited to find a recipe with a similar one to the cake my grandmother, also Angela, made.
Your recipe looked great. The Pizza Dolce is in the oven. I used orange zest instead of lemon. It smells amazing and looks great so far.
So, thanks you for a wonderful gift that she and I can share on her birthday.
….Susanna tutta panna
sweet pizza fantastic, I love, I love your beautiful recipes, I'm surprised your professionalism will continue looking, I'll follow, affection and hugs.
That is beautiful Frank.
Never knew of another description of pizza. Interesting, good to know.
All you guys are just too kind!
@bakingdevils: Angelina always served 'au naturel' but I'm sure if would be lovely with fruits, poached or otherwise. Some berries, for example, I bet would be lovely, or some candied orange slices…
what a beautiful pie! you just reminded me how I have not made a ricotta pie in much too long!
Thanks so much for sharing such a wonderful creation with us and for the inspiration!
Oh, I remember this cake. A friends gram would make this when I was a kid… it was so unusual and delicious and not like a cake or a pie that I knew… her gram barely spoke English so she seemed terribly exotic in the midwestern neighborhood I grew up in… thanks for the memory!
Grandma Gresio had a similar dessert – but without the splash of anisette which I am liking. It's sweet simplicity which the Italians do so well.
To an Abruzzese, “pizza dolce” refers to a three layer sponge cake, drizzled with liquor/espresso combination and filled with cream.
Hi…I see your family is from Abruzzi…my dad’s mother came from palena and used to make a “pizza sweet bread” but they called it pizza…does this sound familiar at all…dad said he thinks it was made with flour, eggs, sugar, yeast, anise seeds (or something like this)…my grandmother would make the dough and then have her sons bring it to a local baker to bake in a brick oven…I don’t think it had ricotta in it….any idea?
Wow! this look so delicious, I never knew that I could called it pizza. Thanks for the teaching lesson! Thanks for the delicious recipe too. I love fresh ricotta. In Brazil, we use ricotta in our tarts too.
I wonder how this would be if you actually sauteed some finocchio and added that instead of the anise liqueur. Hmmmm 🙂
I love this recipe – no pastry makes it so much nicer and knowing its orgin make it so much more special. I love to read orgins and history about food – makes cooking them so much more fun.
Would this be served best with some poached fruits? I can't wait to make this…sounds delish!
This is so innovative and creative!
right, somewhat like a custard pie we make but without a pieshell and a balance of cheese & egg – pure essence of the two …. lovely pie, I know Angelina is proud…
Well, that's a lovely tart! I can smell it all the way from Singapore. Hahaha!
Dropping by from Luxury Indulgence
Wow, that look so light and delicious!
Yes, this does remind me of a crustless cheesecake – pizza dolce or cheesecake, Angelina had a winner here.
I'm bookmarking this one–Ricotta pie or cake has been on my list of things to try & this recipe looks so simple, yet so delicious!
Sounds wonderful! Will have to try this. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Spicie and Pola!
And Greg, yes, fruit (especially berries, I would think) should go very nicely with this.
Frank this looks really good. Would this be served with fruit? It seems like fruit would be go with this very well.
Buona! I used to do a ricotta cake when I was a kid with raisins and really loved it. I don't have the recipe anymore, so I think I will try yours!
This sweet pizza resembles cheesecake. I never new there were sweet pizza so thanks for educating me. This recipe is going on my list to try and soon. Thanks for sharing Frank!