Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy
Mary Ann's newest book contains over 150 recipes, 60 gorgeous food photos, and many scenic pictures of Italy taken by Mary Ann on her travels through the years.
Christmas cooking would not be complete without pomegranates. The fruit is often depicted in Italian works of religious art. It is said that the multitude of seeds, nestled together so neatly in one fruit, is like the union of people who make up one church. For eating, the seeds are squeezed to make a drink called granatina, or they are sprinkled into salads of bitter chicories.
This recipe is a modern departure for another use of the fruit, as a sauce for ricotta cheesecake. The cake, as well as the sauce, can be made two days ahead. Skim-milk ricotta best approximates the texture of Italian ricotta.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
One 16-ounce container skim-milk ricotta cheese, well drained
1 pound mascarpone cheese or cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 325F. Grease a 9-inch spring form pan with half the butter. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and grease the paper with the remaining butter.
Generously dust the pan with flour and shake out the excess.
In a bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the cheeses until smooth. Beat in the sugar. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, until well blended. Fold in the flour.
In another bowl, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the cheese mixture. Pour the batter into the pan, and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Turn off the oven and leave the cake in the oven with the door ajar for 30 minutes. Remove the cake to a rack and let cool completely, then cover and refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours.
To serve, run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it. Release the spring on the side of the pan and remove the springform ring. Put a serving dish over the top of the cake and invert it onto the plate. Remove the parchment paper.
Spread the pomegranate sauce evenly over the top of the cake. Cut the cake into wedges. (The sauce may also be placed in a bowl and passed on the side.)
4 large pomegranates, about 3 pounds
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
3/4 cup sugar
Cut the pomegranates in half. Place a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl. Using a spoon or your fingers, scrape the seeds into the sieve.
With a wooden spoon or a flat meat pounder, press on the seeds to extract 2 cups of juice. Discard the seeds and set the juice aside.
In a medium saucepan, mix the cornstarch with the sugar. Slowly stir in the pomegranate juice and mix well. Cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce begins to thicken and darkens to a deep wine color, and the sauce coats the back of the spoon. Remove from the heat and let cool. The sauce may be made ahead and stored in a jar in the refrigerator. It will thicken somewhat if stored. When ready to use, thin with a little warm water if necessary.
The recipe is from Celebrations Italian Style by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1995.