Lemon-Ricotta Cheesecake

slice of lemon-ricotta cheesecake

Before making my mother’s lemon-ricotta cheesecake earlier this month, I hadn’t made a cheesecake in years. And I’m not sure why — it is the easiest dessert to make; it can be made a day in advance; it feeds many people; and people generally love it, especially this one, made with both ricotta and mascarpone, both lemon juice and zest.

A simple cookie crumb dusting of the pan allows this cheesecake to come together in no time, and its silky texture somehow tastes both rich and light at the same time. A small slice will suffice though it’s nearly impossible to resist seconds.

I hope all of your holiday preparations are going well, Everyone.


These are the cookies my mother always uses for her cookie crusts — they are so good and made with seven ingredients all of which you can pronounce: flour, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking soda:
jules detrooper cookies

cookies opened

crushed cookies

crumb-coated pan

The lemon zest is key in this cheesecake — it complements the ricotta so nicely and just adds a lovely bright flavor.
lemon zest & ricotta

Ready for its water bath:
ready for water bath

just baked cheesecake

baked and cooled ricotta cheesecake

More Easter ideas here.

Lemon-Ricotta Cheesecake

Source: My mother via an old New York Times Magazine recipe — can't find an online source for the original recipe.


Ricotta: You must use whole milk ricotta here. Low-fat will leave the cheesecake with a gritty texture. Calabro brand, sold at Whole Foods, is nice.

If you are serving this the same day you are making it, bake it first thing in the morning. Of course, this can be made a day in advance. Bring to room temperature briefly before serving.

The cookie crust is more of a cookie dusting than a crust — it melts into the cheesecake making it almost undetectable. It's a subtle touch, but still really nice. Use whatever cookie you like, but I highly recommend the Jules Detrooper butter waffles if you can find them. This is what my mother always uses and what I use now, too. They are made of all good things — flour, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking soda — and they are delicious to boot.

Fresh ricotta versus not: Fresh is best. My mother always uses fresh, but keep in mind you will need three pounds, which can get pricey. Most recently I made two using standard grocery store ricotta, and I still thought it was completely delicious.

Cooking times will vary dramatically depending on your oven, the pan you are using for the water bath and what type of ricotta you are using. If you are using fresh ricotta, the cheese cake will likely cook faster — start checking at 1 hour and 15 minutes. If you are not using fresh ricotta, it might take as long as 2 hours to cook, but again, start checking at 1 hour and 15 minutes.


  • 3 lbs ricotta, fresh or not, but please use whole milk ricotta — low-fat won't work here (Calabro brand, sold at Whole Foods, is nice)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup grated or smashed cookie of choice, Jules Detrooper butter waffles are so good
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice


  1. If you are using fresh ricotta, place it in a sieve over a bowl and let drain for 1 hour. If you are not using fresh ricotta, skip this step.
  2. Triple wrap the bottom and sides of 3x10-inch springform pan with aluminum foil. Butter the sides, bottom and rim of pan. Mix the smashed or grated cookie crumbs with 1 teaspoon sugar and coat the pan.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Fill a teapot with water and bring to a boil. Place the ricotta and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat at low speed until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth. Beat in the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar. Continue to beat until mixture is very smooth. Beat in the mascarpone, vanilla and lemon juice. Pour into the pan and smooth the top.
  4. Place the pan inside a roasting pan whose sides are not higher than the cake pan. Open oven and pull rack out halfway — make sure it's stable. Place pan on rack, then pour in the boiling water from the teapot into the larger pan to within 1 inch of the top of the smaller pan. Bake for one hour and 15 minutes. Test with finger — the top should spring back a bit. Give the pan a shake — if the batter ripples under the surface too much, it probably needs more time. It should be slightly golden on top.

    Note: Cooking times will vary dramatically depending on your oven, the pan you are using for the water bath and what type of ricotta you are using. If you are using fresh ricotta, the cheesecake will likely cook faster — start checking at 1 hour and 15 minutes. If you are not using fresh ricotta, it might take as long as 2 hours to cook, but again, start checking at 1 hour and 15 minutes.

  5. Remove and let cool to room temperature in the water bath. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours before serving. It will firm up as it rests.
  6. To unmold, slide a thin knife around the cake edges. Release the sides of the springform pan. Refrigerate until serving.

slice of lemon-ricotta cheesecake

slice of lemon-ricotta cheese cake


  1. Lisa See says

    The other day, at the local market, I came across fresh ricotta cheese in a wedge. Is this what you mean by fresh ricotta?

    My first thought after spying this was your Baked Ricotta recipe. The lady at the counter said that it would be great for making it.

    • says

      Hi Lisa, I don’t think so actually — that may have been ricotta salata? Fresh ricotta is incredibly moist and delicious. Ricotta salata is on the dry side, and is salty and can actually be grated or shaved or cut — you wouldn’t be able to do these things with fresh ricotta. Ask at the cheese counter of your local market if they carry fresh ricotta. It’s so good! Hope that helps!

  2. says

    ah this is gorgeous. i love the butter waffles crust!

    this reminds me of the best cheesecake i ever had, at a little italian restaurant in the village… oh goodness i can’t even remember the name of it now. but the thing is, i am not a new york type of cheesecake person, but i am totally a ricotta cheese cake person and this is the first time i’ve seen a recipe for it, so i think that’s a sign!!

    • says

      YES it is! I am not a ny cheesecake person either, and totally a ricotta cheesecake person. I found myself eating this for breakfast. It was so bad. But so good.

  3. Jules says

    First of all, this looks amazing! Second, how necessary would you say the crumb crust is? It almost looks crust less, which makes me almost want to skip the step. I’m lazy :)

    • says

      Jules, I think you probably could skip it, but if you can muster the energy to whack those cookies and give the pan a sprinkle, I say go for it. It’s subtle but really nice.

  4. Audrey says

    Will definitely try this! One question though- Do you refrigerate it covered or uncovered? I am guessing plastic wrap will cause condensation, but will it develope a skin if left uncovered?

    • says

      Yay! I do cover it with plastic wrap. It cools almost completely in the waterbath and kind of develops its own thin top crust anyway as it bakes and sets. I covered it mostly because I was worried about it absorbing other refrigerator smells, but I don’t know that it’s necessary to do so. I didn’t have too much condensation on my plastic wrap, and I did let it come to room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving. Hope that helps!

  5. says

    Looks like heaven, and mine is in the oven!! One question though, I used Ricotta con Latte, and have no idea what the difference is, it just said on the package that it was great in cheesecakes. Think it will still be okay?

    • says

      Yay! I think it will be perfect. I don’t know what it means, and I just did a little bit of googling but didn’t find much. I have a feeling it’s mostly marketing — they make a certain kind of mascarpone that is great for tiramisu, but I don’t think in the end it makes that much of a difference. Hope it turns out well for you!!

  6. says

    This is so gorgeous! I had been looking forward to your mother’s cheesecake recipe. Lemon zest, how wonderful! Those butter waffle cookies are a favorite with us, too…. they make the best ice cream sandwiches :)

  7. Bates says

    Hi! This was such a fun cake to make and a beautiful one at that. Couple of thoughts – it was hard to get the marscapone to combine adding it after the eggs etc. The mixer was so full and almost soupy by that point that I couldn’t really get it going. I ended up whisking it in by hand but next time I think I’ll add with the ricotta in the beginning so it can get a good beating? Probably was also difficult because my cheeses were more on the cold side than the room temp side. Also – we only have one kind of ricotta available in Abu Dhabi and I think it may not have the best flavor. The texture was nice but the flavor was just OK. Must make from scratch next time round.

    • says

      I totally meant to make a note about the mascarpone — the second time I made this, I thought about whipping the mascarpone in a separate bowl first, but I just got too lazy and went with it. I think it totally can be added in the first step with the ricotta. Or maybe it should even be whipped by itself first? Such a bummer about the ricotta, too. I think making from scratch sounds amazing but SO much work. I need to figure out how to mail you some fresh ricotta :)

  8. Elisa says

    I made this for our Easter dinner instead of my family’s usual ricotta pie and not only was it a hit on Easter, but it tasted even better for an afternoon snack a couple days later. Thanks for sharing this great recipe!

  9. Valerie says

    I have made many of the recipes you have posted and all of them have been great, with the exception of this one. I don’t know what happened or what I did wrong, but it was extremely grainy and just not good. I had to throw half of it away. Arghhh!

    • says

      Arghh is right! I am so so sorry to hear this. I don’t know what to say. I made it three times before posting, twice with supermarket ricotta and once with fresh. What kind of ricotta did you use? Such a bummer. I hate thinking about wasted food/ingredients and the cost of those ingredients.

    • Valerie says

      I used Lucerne part skim ricotta which is the Safeway brand. No worries, I am passing on this one and making your cinnamon pull apart next! :)

  10. says

    My mother used to make Italian cheesecakes all the time when I was growing up in Philadelphia. I haven’t made one in years. I’m thinking that this must get rectified immediately…lol. Thanks for the inspiration! Beautiful blog by the way!! And, how lucky are you to have worked at Fork for so many years!! I’m thinking a visit to Fork is also in order :)

  11. Naz says

    Maybe this is a silly question but do you use caster sugar in this recipe or granulated sugar? I can’t wait to try it by the way!

    • says

      I use granulated. Is caster sugar powdered sugar? I should know this probably. But if it is, the recipe will come out differently. The biggest key here is to use whole milk ricotta. Low-fat won’t cut it.

  12. Danielle says

    Love your site..
    The only supermarket brand of ricotta I can get is PollyO or Sorrento. Which ricotta do you recommend? Also which brand of mascarpone do you use?
    I’ve made italian cheesecake a couple times before and it never comes out really creamy, always a little grainy. Any suggestions?

  13. janis mclain says

    You rock!! Seriously!! I love this dessert at xmas and you are going to make mine even better this year. Thank you so much.

  14. Lucy says

    Tried twice and both were leaky, soggy messes. Followed the directions and ingredient list to a T both times. Any idea what went wrong? Love any advice.

    • says

      Oh no! What kind of ricotta are you using? If you are using fresh, you need to drain it. Did you wrap your springform pan in foil? Both of my springform pans leak, so foil is essential. So sorry to hear this!

      • Lucy says

        I used store bought ricotta and triple wrapped, but it still appeared to be a runny mess. Is the water bath necessary, do you think?

        • says

          Ugh, such a bummer, I really am sorry, especially since costly ingredients were involved. Part of me feels the water bath is unnecessary. From what I’ve read, its purpose is to prevent cracking on top, which hardly feels like a big deal. But I hate for you to experiment again. If I make it again anytime soon, I will skip the water bath and report back.

  15. Linda says

    im very excited to try this lemon Ricotta cake for easter. Can I put the water under the grate instead if in the water bath. I’ve had other water bath problems- I guess three layers should work- help!!!!

  16. Rachel says

    I made this for Easter dessert yesterday and it was a hit! I wanted to provide a few details, in case they are helpful, I did not use a water bath and it worked out fine – the top did crack/cave in on itself a little but not a big deal to me. I also used the “Calabro” whole milk ricotta (sold at WF) which worked beautifully! Served it with macerated strawberries. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!

    • says

      Rachel, I am so happy to hear this! Thank you so much for the ricotta recommendation — that is so helpful for people. I am going to make a note in the recipe. I think quality of ricotta is important here. Love the idea of macerated strawberries with it, and I love the idea of not using a water bath — it’s so hard to prevent water from getting in. Happy Easter to you and thanks for writing in!

  17. Nancy H says

    OMG Alexandra! What a wonderful cheesecake recipe. Just made it this morning, and it turned out GREAT!
    Thank you so much for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *