Orange Ricotta Tart

Growing up in an Italian-American family I learned, probably before I could talk, that every holiday and special occasion came with its own food, to be enjoyed on that day and maybe not to be tasted again until it came around again on the calendar.

Many of those foods happen to be sweet things (or maybe that’s just what I loved best) like St. Joseph’s day zeppole (fried dough filled with creamy custard), Christmas panettone (sweet yeast bread) and my favorite, sfogilatelle, a flaky ricotta-filled pastry that sat in a brown cardboard pastry box every Sunday after dinner.

There was also the traditional Neapolitan Easter pie, filled with an orange-scented rice pudding. That pie could take days to make, chill and set and from what I recall seemed to weigh as much as the 20-pound sack of baking potatoes my mother kept by the back door.

My version of the holiday pie is lightened up and simplified to please my all-grown-up tastes. The barely sweet, orange-scented ricotta in the middle of sfogliatelle is what inspired this tart; the toasty, rustic almond cake recipe comes from In the Hands of a Chef by Boston chef Jody Adams. It’s a simple cake to expand upon and personalize according to season; most of all on those days that need a sweet remembrance.

Orange Ricotta Tart

Yield: one 8-inch tart


  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • ¾ cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Freshly grated zest from 1 large naval orange
  • ½ cup whole almonds
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs


  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the top, bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with the melted butter.
  2. Whisk together the ricotta, honey and orange zest in a small bowl until combined.
  3. Toast the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet 7 -10 minutes, until lightly golden and fragrant; cool. Grind the almonds in a small food processor until fine crumbs form – be careful not to over process to avoid making almond butter.
  4. Combine the ground almonds, flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
  5. In a standing mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one; lower the mixer speed and stir in the flour mixture until just combined.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Evenly top the outside edge and the middle of cake with tablespoon-sized scoops of the ricotta.
  7. Bake 30-35 minutes. The cake should be golden and the batter around the ricotta lightly firm to the touch.


  1. Is there a flour I could use to make this GF? Need to deliver food to a family whose mom died tomorrow, thinking this would be perfect. One of the daughters if gluten intolerant, not celiac.

    • Alanna – Not sure since I can’t test it out, but I would suggest subbing oat or rice flour. Spelt flour would be very good too, if she can tolerate that.

  2. Suggestion: use Almond Meal, widely available, especially at Trader Joe’s. I find this recipe for a simple ricotta pie to be overly complex; in fact, this recipe has increased the usual prep time from 20 minutes to 45 (not including the baking). Many Italian households used a simple pie pan. Springform makes the heel of the crust too thick and you’ll notice most people will leave it on their plate. I would never add baking powder to ground almonds — bakign powder should be added to flour and lightly stirred in, so that the almond oil does not attach to the bitter baking powder. I’m sure this is a delicious ricotta pie, after all the work, and it is probably a better one than Ima Garten’s which is quite bitter and has a 2 hour prep time (your have to boil whole tangerines & chop the cooled peel.) Sometimes we forget that the idea is to have fun in the kitchen, not be a stressed out slave to the stove in the kitchen.

    • Penny,
      As a professional chef for over 20 years, I can appreciate your considerations. Any suggestions that will reduce prep time without sacrificing quality are always welcome, and to me, the fun and art of cooking has to do with making adjustments for a better outcome!
      I wonder how fresh goat ricotta would work with this recipe-

      Karen, thanks for an attractive website and new information!

    • Penny, thanks for the tip about adding baking powder to flour before adding almond meal. I too will use a simple pie pan as I’ve also noticed how thick crust is left behind. I agree about the simplicity of this in an Italian household. It seems basic recipes have to be made complex, not sure why.

  3. Good recipe. Although I sometimes enjoy over-the-top sweet, my preference is for a more toned down sugar presence. And I seem to be using ricotta more and more these days – this is a great use for it. Thanks for this.

  4. Hello again,
    I like everything related to Italian kitchen, so, these kinds of recipes always get five stars from me. Nice work.

  5. This recipe with the addition of the almond crust sounds amazing.
    I make a different version of an orange ricotta pie, but they are all delicious, with our without a crust.

    Wow Penny, you really seem to have an opinion on other people’s recipes….and it’s INA Garten, fyi.
    I will try your recipe Karen, it looks fab.


  6. i like the info i saw here,,very informative

  7. I am looking for a recipe for a crust that they use in a bakery when they make a italian ricotta pie. Does anyone have the bakery recipe of the ricotta pie

  8. This recipe is delicious! I made it exactly as written, except I used lime zest since I made it for St. Patrick’s Day. We all loved it! Since it is not too sweet, it would be lovely for breakfast too.

  9. Karen,

    I just made this and it tastes great!! I used 75g of ground almonds instead of roasting/grounding 1/2 cup of almonds. My ricotta mixture didn’t stay on top but sank to the middle/lower third. I also used cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. So, I made a few substitutions/changes. Could you tell me if my changes caused the ricotta mixture to sink? Is 75g ground almonds the same as 1/2 cup roasted/ground? I thought the cake flour would lighten the mixture but maybe it had an adverse reaction with the rest of the ingredients? The flavor is great but I would like it to look as stunningly beautiful as yours!

    Keep up the good work & thank you in advance for your response!!

    • Hi Jason, I’m glad to see your comment. Hmmm, my conversion table says that 1/2 cup almonds is equal to 50 grams ground almonds. 75 grams would be 25 grams more than what I use in the recipe by just 1/8 of a cup; the cake flour in place of all-purpose will yield a slightly more tender crumb. Did you use an 8-inch diameter cake pan? The ricotta should sink a tiny bit into the cake as it bakes. I can only guess that the little extra volume in cake batter (from the extra almonds) caused the cake to rise higher over the filling. Hope that helps!

  10. Karen,

    Thanks for getting back to me so quickly! I made the tart again this morning and I followed your advice—it turned out perfectly!! No sinking ricotta & stunningly beautiful :-))) I am looking forward to baking the Pistachio Crumbly Cake next…

    Again, thanks for your advice!

    • Great! Thanks for letting me know, Jason. I’m glad it worked out! Share a photo next time – I’d love to see your creation.

  11. Lindsay guevara says:

    Quick question
    Can u make this the night before?? And does it need to be refrigerated??


  12. Effie Powell says:

    Just made this and popped it in the oven. I added about 1/8 tsp of almond extract, since this recipe reminded me of a ricotta almond cake I had in Italy once, and I wanted a bit more almond flavor. the batter tastes amazing! Not too sweet, but just right. Can’t wait to see the finished product!

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