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Cassatine Sicilian sweet ricotta tarts
Cassatine (Sicilian sweet ricotta miniature tarts, flavored with orange zest and semisweet chocolate)
Originated from: Sicily, Italy
Occasion: Easter and other times
Contributed by: Adapted from "The Art of Sicilian Cooking" by Anna Muffoletto (1971)

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Pastry dough*
1 cup lard
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons orange juice
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
4 egg yolks, beaten
4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

For filling
2 cups (smooth) ricotta cheese, drained
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon orange blossom water (optional)
1/8 cup candied citron, finely diced

Lard for greasing miniature tart pans

For decoration
1/2 cup slivered, roasted almonds
about 1/4 cup icing sugar (optional)

Equipment needed
about 36 miniature tart pans

*Makes about 3 dozens


To make the dough

Place the lard in a large bowl, and pour hot water, wine, honey, vanilla, orange juice and orange zest over it.

Using an electric blender, cream the ingredients together.

Add egg yolks and continue beating vigorously.

In another bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together.

Combine the flour mixture with the lard mixture and work into a smooth, soft dough.

Divide the dough into two portions; shape the dough into balls. Wrap with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about 1 hour in the fridge (It should get firmer in the cold).

For filling

In a bowl combine ricotta cheese, icing sugar, grated chocolate, orange zest and diced citron; mix well.

Cover with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge while processing the dough.

To make tarts

Grease about 3 dozen miniature tart pans -- about 2 inches wide and 3/4 inch deep. Keep aside.

On a floured wooden board, roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick.

Cut into rounds (The same size as the miniature tart containers).

Place the rolled out dough rounds in the well-greased miniature tart pans.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake until the tarts are a dark golden color -- about 10 minutes.

Cool tarts before removing from pans.

When the tarts are cool fill them with the cheese mixture.

Keep in fridge until needed.

Before serving decorate with roasted slivered almonds.

Dust with icing sugar (Optional).


The recipe in this entry was adapted from "The Art of Sicilian Cooking" by Anna Muffoletto (New York: Doubleday, 1971). The cookbook can be borrowed for free at the on-line library, www.openlibrary.org.... I tried out this recipe and liked it a lot, but I did change it a little to suit my own taste. In the original recipe the cookbook author, Anna Muffoletto, suggested that muffin cups should be used to make these sweets. I tried a few, and they didn't look very appetizing, so I switched to using tart pans. Also, the original recipe asked for 3 tablespoons of finely grated orange zest -- that was too much for my liking, so I reduced the amount. The dough in this adapted version is more or less like the original -- after all this is a traditional recipe. A very Sicilian one at that. In other parts of Italy white wine is sometimes used to make dough but red wine is almost never added, nor is honey. That's a generalization of course; there are a few Tuscan recipes that do call for red wine in dough and even Abruzzo has a few, but over all, this recipe has a definite Sicilian feel to it. As I love ricotta tarts, it's nice to come across something a touch different from the norm (Do I do love the norm!). Comments and photo: Mary Melfi.

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