In the town we grew up, there was this old Italian deli/bakery. My parents used to buy this little cheesecake from there every once in awhile – it was very small (no more than 6″ in diameter) and came in an aluminum foil pan. That little cheesecake was soooooo good – so rich, so creamy – just amazing. I remember fighting with my brother every time for my share of the cheesecake! When we got older, my brother used to go to that deli, buy himself a whole cheesecake, then come home and eat the whole thing in front of me barbarian style – smirking the entire time. (Of course he wouldn’t let me have any.) What a punk!
When he came over with his wife and her family for dinner the other night, I asked him, “What dessert do you guys want?” And he said “Duh. Cheesecake!” So of course, I did my best to recreate that yummy Italian deli cheesecake. I think I did a good job – it tastes almost exactly the same, thanks to the use of mascarpone and ricotta cheese. But this time, the joke’s on my brother! This cheesecake is just as rich and fattening as it tastes – so Mr. Health fanatic can’t eat more than a small piece unless he wants to blow his whole diet. Haha.
I found mascarpone in the specialty cheese section at the regular market. It comes in 8 oz. tubs – you will need 3 packages. If you cannot find mascarpone anywhere, you can certainly use cream cheese - but it won’t be exactly the same. The sour cream topping is optional – I like it – but you could easily just top the whole cheesecake with berries or whipped cream if you want.
- 1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 6 T. unsalted butter, melted
- 3 (8 oz.) containers of mascarpone cheese (24 oz. total)
- 1 c. whole milk ricotta
- 3 eggs
- 1 c. sugar
- 2 vanilla bean pods (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 c. sour cream
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 T. sugar
1. First, make the crust. Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of an 8″ or 9″ springform pan.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and set a baking dish full of hot water on the bottom rack (the cheesecake will bake on the upper rack, directly above the hot water bath). Make sure your cheesecake ingredients are room temperature. Mix the mascarpone cheese and sugar with a hand mixer until well combined.
3. Split the vanilla bean pods and scrape out the seeds. Add the ricotta, salt, and vanilla seeds into the mascarpone mixture and combine.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly before adding the next.
5. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the springform pan and level the top with a rubber spatula.
6. Place the cheesecake on the top shelf. The steam from the water bath will help prevent the cheesecake from cracking. Bake for 1 hour until the center is almost set. Turn off the heat, and leave the oven door slightly ajar for 1 hour. Then, remove the cheesecake and cool.
7. Mix the topping ingredients and spread over the top of the cheesecake. (The topping is optional. You could also top the cheesecake with berries or other fruit.) Refrigerate the cheesecake, serve chilled.