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The virtues of cheesecake are as follows: it is incredibly easy to throw together; it can be made a day in advance; it feeds many people; and people generally love it. This one, made with both ricotta and mascarpone, and both lemon juice and zest is a huge crowd pleaser.
Unlike classic New York-style cheesecake, this lemon-ricotta cheesecake is sheathed by a simple cookie-crumb dusting, which allows it to come together in no time. Its silky texture tastes both rich and light at the same time, and though a small slice will suffice, it’s nearly impossible to resist seconds.
These are the cookies my mother always uses for her cookie crusts — they are so good and made with seven ingredients all of which you can pronounce: flour, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking soda:
The lemon zest is key in this cheesecake — it complements the ricotta so nicely and just adds a lovely bright flavor.
Ready for its water bath:
- Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Yield: 10-12 servings
Adapted from The New York Times
- Plan ahead! This takes time to make and bake and chill — it must chill for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, before serving.
- You’ll need a 10-inch springform pan for this recipe.
- Ricotta: You must use whole milk ricotta here. Low-fat will leave the cheesecake with a gritty texture. Calabro brand, sold at Whole Foods, is nice. If you are serving this the same day you are making it, bake it first thing in the morning. As noted above, this can be made a day in advance. Bring to room temperature briefly before serving.
- Fresh ricotta versus not: Fresh is best. My mother always uses fresh, but keep in mind you will need three pounds, which can get pricey. Most recently I made two using standard grocery store ricotta, and I still thought it was completely delicious, but several commenters have not had success with non-fresh ricotta, so I am advising to use fresh ricotta only here. Cooking times will vary dramatically depending on your oven, the pan you are using for the water bath and what type of fresh ricotta you are using. Start checking at 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- The cookie crust is more of a cookie dusting than a crust — it melts into the cheesecake making it almost undetectable. It’s a subtle touch, but still really nice. Use whatever cookie you like, but I highly recommend the Jules Destrooper butter waffles if you can find them. This is what my mother always uses and what I use now, too. They are made of all good things — flour, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking soda — and they are delicious to boot. You also could skip the cookie coating all together for simplicity.
- If you have a Thermapen (highly recommend!), use it to test the temp of the cheesecake, and remove it when it reads 150-155ºF.
- I have never done this, but the next time I make this, I’m tempted to skip the water bath, and bake the cake on a rimmed sheet pan at 350ºF for about an hour — I’ve seen a number of recipes that skip the water bath without issue.
- 3 lbs. whole milk fresh ricotta, (low-fat won’t work here; Calabro brand, sold at Whole Foods, is nice)
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened
- ¼ cup grated or smashed cookie of choice, Jules Detrooper butter waffles are so good
- 1 teaspoon plus 1½ cups sugar
- 1 cup mascarpone
- 6 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Place ricotta in a sieve over a bowl and let drain for 1 hour.
- Triple wrap the bottom and sides of 3×10-inch springform pan with aluminum foil. Butter the sides, bottom and rim of pan. Mix the smashed or grated cookie crumbs with 1 teaspoon sugar and coat the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Fill a teapot with water and bring to a boil. Place the mascarpone in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light. Transfer to a small bowl; then add ricotta and lemon zest to bowl of electric mixer. Beat at low speed until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth. Beat in the remaining 1½ cups sugar. Continue to beat until mixture is very smooth. Beat in the mascarpone, vanilla and lemon juice. Pour into the pan and smooth the top.
- Place the pan inside a roasting pan whose sides are not higher than the cake pan. Open oven and pull rack out halfway — make sure it’s stable. Place pan on rack, then pour in the boiling water from the teapot into the larger pan to within 1 inch of the top of the smaller pan. Bake for one hour and 15 minutes. Test with finger — the top should spring back a bit. Give the pan a shake — if the batter ripples under the surface too much, it probably needs more time. It should be slightly golden on top. Note: Cooking times will vary dramatically depending on your oven, the pan you are using for the water bath and what type of fresh ricotta you are using. Start checking at 1 hour and 15 minutes. If you have a Thermapen (highly recommend!), use it to test the temp of the cheesecake, and remove the cheesecake when the thermometer reads 150-155ºF. The cheesecake may take 30-40 minutes longer, so just be patient.
- Remove and let cool to room temperature in the water bath. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours before serving. It will firm up as it rests.
- To unmold, slide a thin knife around the cake edges. Release the sides of the springform pan. Refrigerate until serving.
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: Italian/American
Keywords: cheesecake, lemon, ricotta, mascarpone, make-ahead
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147 Comments on “Lemon-Ricotta Cheesecake”
Thanks for sharing this recipe! I wonder if you ended up trying this recipe without the water bath?
Sara, I have not! I’m too worried I’ll mess it up. I did some research — as in googled: Is a water bath necessary? — and found a lot research to suggest it’s a good idea. Cheesecake is so much work — it would be such a pain to end up with a curdled mess due to skipping the water bath.
Thanks for the quick reply, Ali! I am looking forward to trying this cheesecake. I made a New York-style cheesecake recently without a water bath, but I didn’t use ricotta, so that is probably the reason why it worked.
So interesting Sara! If you’ve had success, it might work. What I kept reading is that cheesecake “batter” is essentially a custard (milk + egg), which is why it needs the gentle heat of a water bath, but perhaps it doesn’t if you cook it slowly? I just would hate for you to waste ingredients.
It makes sense, Ali! I think I will first try the recipe as you posted it and, if it turns out well, I may try without the water bath next time. I will report back my experience if I end up doing it 🙂
Perfect, sounds great, Sara!
I decided to try this recipe. It is my very first time adding ricotta to a dessert.
I have to say im a little disappointed on the texture.
Is it supposed to feel like grainny or something?
I guess when i hear cheescake a think of something really smooth and creamy And this was just not it for this one. I have done many cheesecakes in my life safe to say that I have done many trial an error but with this recipe I felt the fear of a first time baker lol! Any solution to this or is it just the way it is with ricotta?
Hi Mara! Sorry to hear this. Yes, ricotta cheesecakes can be on the grainy side — they’re not smooth the way New York style cheesecakes are. Question: what type of ricotta did you use? And did you make any other changes?
I have to admit I use ricotta from the store which of course is not fresh.
But like you said the grainy factor should be normal because its ricotta.
I decided to make a lemon curd and it turned out exquisite! The more I ate it the more I loved it.
For the crust, my go to biscotti waffles mixed with graham crackers and a little bit of butter. I has always been a crowd favorite
My friend was pretty impressed and she reminded me that ricotta just feels that way.
with everything together, the ricotta the cheese the savory of lemon curd and the sweetness of the crust , our mouths where busier with the explosion of flavor rather than the texture which it was my biggest worry.
The lemon curd recipe was found on a blog that is connected to your recipe but I cant remember the name of the blog. Bottom line.. all the efforts where worth it!
Thank you for responding!
Oh yay! So nice to hear all of this Mara. Your biscotti waffles + graham cracker crust sounds absolutely amazing. I used to make a pumpkin cheesecake with an amaretti cookie crust, and I remember just loving the crust so much. Thanks so much for reporting back 🙂
Can Monk fruit be substituted for the sugar in this recipe?
I’ve never tried, so I can’t say for sure. But I would just google: how to swap monk fruit for sugar in a recipe. Then proceed. I imagine it will work just fine.
I don’t like lemon, can I substitute the lemon juice with milk or cream? And can I separate the eggs, add the yokes to the batter but whip the egg whites and fold in for an even lighter fluffier cheesecake? Just looking for your opinion before I make it.
You can simply omit the lemon juice and zest — no need to replace it with anything. I can’t speak to how whipped egg whites in the batter would work as I’ve never tried it. I am a big believer in experimenting, however, so go for it if you are up for it. I might google “cheesecake with whipped egg whites” before you make it… I’d hate for you to waste so many costly ingredients.
Hi Ali, this might be obvious, but do the ingredients need to be room temperature? I’m wondering if the ricotta drains for the one hour at room temp…thank you!
Yes to room temperature! I will add a note 🙂
Could you make these into a cheesecake bar instead of a cake?
I made this cheesecake for Christmas, It was wonderful. I am making it again for a dinner party. Can I use a 9 inch springform pan instead of a. 10 inch. I am looking for height.
So nice to hear this, Lisa! I think a 9-inch pan should be just fine! It doesn’t rise much, so as long as the batter is contained in the walls of the pan, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.
I don’t generally leave comments, but this recipe turned out so well and tasted absolutely delicious, that I had to post a thank you! Made a 1/2 recipe in a 6” pan. I even found the butter crisp cookies ‘by chance’ while walking out of World Market. Thank you for sharing!
Great to hear, Cynde! Thanks so much for writing and sharing this 🙂