The Coal Region is a melting pot of ethnic influences; English, Welsh, Irish and German immigrants formed a large portion of the initial flow of immigrants after the American Civil War in the late 1800s followed by Polish, Slovak, Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Italian, Russian and Lithuanian immigrants. The influence of these immigrant populations is still strongly felt in the region, with various towns possessing pronounced ethnic characters and cuisine. This recipe pays homage to those of us in the Coal region with Italian heritage.
This is a very old recipe passed down through many generations. Like so many other dishes, every family has their own cherished version of this classic. This recipe does not use butter in the crust but instead uses extra virgin olive oil which gives the crust a crispy, flaky, cookie-like texture on the outer edges and the bottom crust under the ricotta cheese filling is slightly cake-like in texture. Optional, but not included in the original recipe: add 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips or 1 tablespoon lemon zest to the filling before baking.
Italian Ricotta PieCourse: DessertCuisine: Italian, Coal RegionDifficulty: Intermediate
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks (save egg whites for filling)
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup good quality olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 granulated sugar
3 whole eggs, beaten
2 egg whites (saved from making the crust)
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Prep the oven: Bring 2 or more quarts of water to boil on stove. In the bottom rack of the preheated oven, place a baking dish such as a 9×13-inch baking dish and fill with the hot, boiled water. Place another oven rack directly over that to next higher rack position.
- Make the pie dough: In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder and sugar. Stir to combine.
- In a smaller bowl combine egg yolks, milk, olive oil, and both extracts.
- Make a hole in the center of the flour and pour in liquid. With a wooden spoon, mix to combine. (If the mixture gets too difficult to combine with a wooden spoon, used your hands to finish mixing).
- Flour your counter top well and place the dough ball in the center, pressing to form a round disc. Flour a rolling pin and gently roll to a circle an inch or two larger than a deep dish 9-inch pie plate. (or roll between two pieces of parchment paper)
- Move the rolled dough to the pie plate. This dough is soft and delicate so be gentle. Use your fingers to form and press the dough into the the pie pan, crimping the top edge all the way around. If the dough tears, just patch it by pressing pieces together. Set aside
- Make the Filling: Place the ricotta in a large bowl and mix in sugar until combined.
- Add whole eggs, egg whites and vanilla and stir to combine with a wooden spoon or wire whisk.
- Pour the filling directly into unbaked crust. Cover the crust edge with foil or pie crust shield so the edges don’t get too browned as the pie bakes.
- Place pie in the center of oven on the rack set over the water bath and bake for one hour and ten minutes. Turn off oven but leave the pie in the oven for ten more minutes. (Don’t open the oven door during any of the time that the pie is in the oven.)
- Remove the pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely before refrigerating – if you put the pie in the refrigerator while still warm, it will weep slightly and collect moisture on top.)
- Chill overnight uncovered. Cut and serve.