Torta di Riso recipe, an Easter tradition

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Torta di Riso is a rich and creamy egg and ricotta-based dessert pie filled with cooked arborio rice and delicately flavored with the essence of orange. Think of it as rice pudding in a crust. In Italian culture, it is traditionally served after mass on Easter Sunday to break the fast observed by orthodox Catholics during Lent.


Most versions of this torta rely on a traditional pastry pie crust to provide its structure. I use layers of phyllo dough in mine for a few reasons, the first being that I find phyllo is more user-friendly for the "doughaphobes" among us. There is no mixing, pulsing or rolling involved. You just thaw out the package and use the phyllo sheets as is. (Remember to keep them covered with a damp cloth while you work, though, so that the sheets don't dry out.) Second, the phyllo crust bakes up shatteringly crispy and buttery. There is no risk of ending up with a soggy base for your torta - a very good thing.


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Make sure you use the right kind of rice for your torta di riso. Uncle Ben's or Minute Rice will not do! You need a starchy, creamy short grain rice like arborio, which is the main ingredient in risotto dishes. I also use a rich, dense specialty ricotta called "ricotta impastata" that I get from a local Italian market. If you can find some, grab it. It really makes a difference in the texture of this pie. If not, drain your regular whole milk ricotta overnight in some cheesecloth over a bowl to get rid of the extra liquid.


One more tip: to enhance the orange flavor, mix the sugar and orange zest together in a small bowl and rub them together with your fingers. The friction will release the oils in the zest and flavor the sugar as well. (Your hands will smell great too!) Then, add it to the rest of the filling ingredients.


You don't have to be Italian, Catholic or even celebrate Easter at all to enjoy Torta di Riso. It's a satisfying and delicious treat anytime of the year.


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Buona Pasqua!


Torta di Riso  (adapted from Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy)


Makes one 10-inch pie


Ingredients:


1 cup uncooked arborio rice


4 cups whole milk (You can use water instead, but the rice won't be as creamy.)


1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling


8 large eggs


2 teaspoons vanilla


2 tablespoons orange zest


2 tablespoons orange flower water


1/4 teaspoon cinnamon


2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese


8 ounces mascarpone cheese


1/2 cup toasted pine nuts


16 sheets thawed phyllo dough


3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted


Directions:


1. Place the rice and milk or water in medium heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook the rice, uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 15-20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the rice is sticky. The rice should still be firm as it will finish cooking during baking. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.


2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.


3. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange zest, orange flower water, cinnamon, ricotta and mascarpone and blend until smooth. Stir in the rice and pine nuts. Set aside.


4. Lightly butter a 9-inch pie plate. Lay 2 phyllo sheets over the bottom and up opposite sides of the dish, allowing the phyllo to hang over the sides. Brush the phyllo with some melted butter and sprinkle a little sugar over it. Top with another 2 sheets of phyllo dough, laying it in the opposite direction as the first sheets. Continue layering the remaining sheets of phyllo sheets, alternating after each layer and buttering and sugaring each sheet until they are all used.


5. Spoon the ricotta/rice mixture into the dish. Fold the overhanging phyllo dough over the top of the filling to enclose it. Brush the top with melted butter. Sprinkle on a little sugar.


6. Bake the torta until the phyllo is golden brown and the filling is set, about 45-50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool completely before cutting and serving.


Enjoy!


Still hungry? Come visit me at Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy, friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!

The Easter season is one of my favorite times of the year. It's about reflection, quiet joy and renewal, the promise of rebirth and hope. No coincidence that Easter usually falls in the early spring. To me, spring is also about rebirth, renewal and hope.

One of the things that my family looks forward to each year at Easter time is enjoying the many traditional Italian baked goods associated with the season. They’re not fancy. There’s no Swiss meringue, chocolate ganache, puff pastry towers or spun sugar decorations in the lot. Just simple, rustic goodness made by loving hands and warm hearts. One of my family’s favorites is Torta di Riso.

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