We must give credit to Sicily for giving us some delicious desserts made with ricotta cheese. Ricotta is not a cheese but a creamy curd. The curd is cooked twice, so the name “ricotta means” re-cooked. The leftover hot whey of milk used for cheese making has milk solids and a protein called albumin, which solidifies under high heat. When the whey is reheated (re-cooked) the solid milk parts are skimmed off to drain, and this is called ricotta cheese.The foam of the whey when it is being recooked is called zabbina in Sicilian.
According to the food historian, Clifford Wright, Professor Santi Correnti, chairman of the history department of the University of Catania and a preeminent historian of Sicily, wrote that during the reign of the Sicilian King Frederick II, in the early thirteenth century, the king and his hunting party came across the hut of a dairy farmer making ricotta and, being ravenous, asked for some. The first depiction of the making of ricotta is found in an illustration in the medical treatise known as the Tacuinum sanitatis, from the eleventh century. (Pictured above.)
Ricotta is used in many Italian desserts, especially for the holidays. Here is one that we like quite a bit.
Amaretto Ricotta Cheesecake
1 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Set a rack in the middle of the oven.
Combine the crust ingredients. Press evenly over the bottom and 1-1/2-inches up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.
Place the ricotta in a large mixing bowl and stir it as smooth as possible with a rubber spatula.
Stir the sugar and flour together and then add to the ricotta. Mix thoroughly into the ricotta.
Stir in the eggs 1 at a time. Blend in the amaretto and salt. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 1/2 hours tor 1 3/4 hours, until a light golden color.
Make sure the center is fairly firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack. It will sink slightly as it cools. Cover, and chill until serving time.