At this time of year, pears are often overlooked in favour of apples and pumpkin. With gentle sweetness and gorgeous flavour, the pear deserves far more attention, pairing extremely well with a huge variety of ingredients – some more unusual than others. This pear and ricotta tart recipe, for instance, pairs tangy ricotta with layers of soft, sweet pears, packed into a flaky pastry case.
A take on Italian ricotta pie, traditionally served at Easter, this pear and ricotta tart has a perfect balance of flavours and textures. The creamy filling is sweet yet not overwhelmingly so, particularly delicious with a cup of coffee. Moreover, using ricotta cheese as the base offers a denser texture than cheesecake, but using full-fat cheese is absolutely essential. (Ricotta is also easy to make at home, from scratch).
As for the pear element, pears remain in season until mid-winter and different varieties will peak as the weather changes. The exact variety used in this pear and ricotta tart recipe doesn’t really matter, but I’d suggest using ripe pears – especially those verging on becoming too ripe as their inherent sweetness brings plenty to the dish, without the need to add too much sugar.
The pastry, on the other hand, is easy to make at home and needs to be pre-baked to hold everything together (you’ll need baking beans or a suitable alternative). Butter, flour and salt are simply rubbed together and amalgamated with sugar, lemon zest, and eggs. While the pastry is cooling, pears are simmered in a cooking syrup that’s great as an additional sauce for the pear and ricotta tart, or works well in a variety of cocktails. These pear slices are then draped over a filling which combines ricotta, sugar, egg and vanilla. The tart is then best eaten once cooled, ideally for a few hours.
- 25cm pie dish, or fluted tin.
- Baking beans or a suitable alternative
For the pastry
- 125 g cold butter diced
- 200 g plain flour
- 60 g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 lemon zested
For the filling
- 250 g ricotta
- 60 g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 60 ml milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the topping
- 2 large pears peeled, halved and sliced
- 30 g caster sugar
- Grease and flour the pie tin and set aside.
- To make the pastry, add cold butter to flour and salt and rub in between fingers. Or use a food processor. (I run my wrists and hands under cold water to cool them down first). Rub the butter, flour and salt until they resemble breadcrumbs; some small, some the size of peas. Stir through the sugar and lemon zest. Add the egg and keep mixing until it just comes together in a ball, if needed add a tbsp of ice water. If using a food processor, do this part by hand. Flatten into a disc, wrap and chill for 20 minutes in the fridge before rolling out.
- In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine 300ml of water and the 30g of sugar for the pears, bring to a simmer. Add the pears and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes or until the pears are tender but not falling apart. Drain the pears in a colander and allow to cool. Continue to cook the cooking syrup until reduced, this can be poured over the tart when served (or it’s great in cocktails).
- Dust a work surface with flour and roll the pastry into a 0.5cm/ ¼ inch thick circle. Roll the pastry up over the rolling pin, place the pan in front and unroll the pastry on top. Lift and drop the pastry into the edges of the tin, don’t push and stretch the pastry as this will create tears. A ball of leftover pastry can be used to help mould the pastry into the edges. Trim the edges of the pastry and crimp if desired. Chill in the fridge again for 20mins. During this time, preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Add a baking sheet to the oven at this point, giving it time to heat up. Rest the pie dish on this while cooking to prevent the base from becoming soggy.
- Once chilled, prick the bottom of the pastry all over with a fork, then fill with baking beans or a suitable alternative. Place on the preheated baking tray and bake for 12. minutes. Take out of the oven and remove the baking beans, then bake for an additional 8 minutes. Allow the pastry to cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C/ gas 4.
- To make the filling, combine ricotta, sugar, egg and vanilla in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour in the milk while whisking to prevent lumps from forming. Pour the ricotta mixture into the pie and arrange the pears on top in a decorative pattern. Bake the pie for 20-25 minutes, or until the filling is set but still has a slight jiggle in the centre. Cool completely before serving.
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