Sweet Ricotta Anise Easter Pie
A good Easter pie is passed down through the generations. I learned this recipe from my mom, who learned it from my grandmother. My grandma probably learned it from her grandma, too—and on top of that, ricotta for Easter is an Italian tradition! We go ricotta crazy in my house. We make lasagna, cannoli, and my favorite: ricotta Easter pie with anise.
Ricotta and anise: characteristics and a bit of history.
Ricotta is delicious. It has a mild, nutty flavor with a twinge of natural sweetness. Anise is also super tasty. It’s mild and sweet with a woody, floral fragrance, a little bit like fennel or licorice. The plant itself if native to the Levant (the region between the eastern Mediterranean and western Asia) and Egypt. Egyptians were eating it as early as 1500 B.C., but it really took off in the Roman empire. Ancient Romans used it in desserts to stimulate digestion after meals—and that’s why we like it, too.
Anise is a digestive aid and a staple in Italian desserts.
You might have tasted anise before—it’s used in herbal teas, black licorice candy (even though licorice tastes similar), ouzo, and sambuca. It’s really great in desserts. It adds natural sweetness and a boost of smooth flavor. My grandma used to make anise biscotti special for Easter, but my mom got creative and decided to add it to her Easter pie. It’s the perfect finish to a nourishing springtime feast.
That brings us to pies for Easter.
You might have an eyebrow raised: Pie? For Easter? Really, Mary? Well, yes! Thanksgiving isn’t the only time for pie (just like Christmas isn’t the only time for cookies). Pies are a huge part of our Easter tradition—we open and close the day with pie… and I love the leftovers on Monday with a hot cup of coffee!
Customizing Your Sweet Ricotta Pie Filling
The filling in my Sweet Ricotta Easter Pie is just ricotta cheese (duh), eggs, and sugar, flavored with vanilla, lemon rind, and anise. You can always throw in some marsala-soaked golden raisins, mini chocolate chips, or candied citrus peel for an extra decadent pie.
My grandma always said, “Anything ricotta is Easter,” but I just have to throw it out there: Nothing is stopping us from making this pie all year long! Of course, let’s not break the tradition… but if you love it, make it. You only ride this flying mud ball once, so you better enjoy it while you’re here to enjoy it. By the way—you might consider this pie a sneak peek into my next cookbook…