Baked apricot and ricotta cheesecake

This is one of the best things I cooked in Italy (if I do say so myself). I love baked cheesecake, especially when it’s light and fluffy. This one is reminiscent of a souffle in its fluffiness. There are such beautiful apricots in season in Italy, so I couldn’t not cook something with them. If you want to make this and it’s not apricot season, I reckon other stone fruit would work well – try plums, nectarines or peaches. I do love the tangyness and the bright orange of the apricots though.

For the base:

  • 170g crushed digestives (I used an Italian brand – wholewheat with bits of dried fruit)
  • 125g melted unsalted butter
  • 12 apricots, cut in half and stones removed
  • 30ml sugar
  • 750ml water

For the filling:

  • 500g ricotta
  • 80ml cream
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 80g sugar

For the base, mix together the biscuits and butter and spread across the base of a cake tin. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for an hour or two.

Meanwhile, poach the apricots in the sugar and water on a low heat until the apricots start to soften and the skin wrinkles (should be about 10 minutes).

To make the filling, mix together the ricotta, cream, lemon zest, sugar and egg yolks. Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Fold in gently into the ricotta mixture. Lay the apricots, cut side down, on top of the biscuit base. Cover with the filling and bake in the oven at 180C for an hour.

Spinach and ricotta lasagne

It was about 35 degrees when I got home from work yesterday. Did I stay in the pool like a normal person? No, I’m so committed to cooking that I sweated it out in my sunny, hot kitchen making lasagne because I had to use up some ricotta I had leftover from the weekend. I don’t know why I didn’t think of a more summery recipe to use up my ricotta, but I got stuck on the idea of spinach and ricotta lasagne. I love this dish when it’s done well, but it’s so often overly creamy and rich (in a bad way) with a bland spinach filling. My version cuts out the white sauce (I just couldn’t spend any longer than I had to in the kitchen) and I think it’s better for it. It’s basically just spinach, cheese and tomato – simple but so tasty.

spinach and ricotta lasagne

Serves 6

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 cans chopped peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 750 g frozen spinach
  • 2 courgettes, grated
  • 600 fresh ricotta
  • 80 g feta
  • 8 sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • Dried or fresh lasagne sheets (about 12, depending on the size of your dish)

A generous handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped roughly

Fry the onion in some olive oil until softened, and then add the garlic. Fry for a minute or two and then add the tins of tomato, the puree and a tomato can filled with water. Put the heat up to high and let it come to the boil. Once it’s bubbling away furiously, turn the heat down to medium high and let it simmer away until it’s become a thick sauce. Season with chilli (optional) and black pepper and stir in half of the basil leaves.

Heat some olive oil in another pan and add the frozen spinach (don’t defrost before cooking). Cook on medium high for a couple of minutes and then add the courgette. Turn the heat up when the spinach starts getting a bit watery and then cook until most of the water has evaporated.

Squeeze out the excess water and mix well with the ricotta. Crumble in around half of the feta and stir in the sundried tomatoes. Season with a bit of salt, lots of black pepper and the basil leaves.

Smear a layer of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a baking dish and then cover with a layer of spinach and ricotta mixture. On top of this add a layer of lasagna sheets. Keep repeating this until you end up with a layer of lasagna with tomato sauce on top. Crumble over the remaining feta and bake in an oven at 180 C for 35 – 40 minutes. It’s done when the feta has turned slightly golden. It’s great with rocket salad.