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The delicious Torta ricotta e pere (ricotta and pears cake)  contains the essence of its original homeland: it is an Italian excellence, designed by the well-known Amalfi Coast pastry chef Sal De Riso. The delicacy and creativity are the key points of this delicious dessert, easy to make and excellent to taste.

by Barbara Iovine

Who has never heard of this simple dessert that has conquered the palates of all ages? The Torta ricotta e pere was a creation born in 1996 from the hands of the impeccable and original Sal De Riso, and today is a very popular dessert not only on the Amalfi Coast but also in the rest of the world.
It stands out not only because of its good-looking presentation, but mainly for its refined taste: the result of a very careful choice of ingredients. As unique as it is imitated, this Neapolitan specialty fruit of the master pastry chef's imagination, generated truly unique and unrepeatable alchemy.

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Torta ricotta e pere ( ricotta and pears cake) - courtesy Sal de Riso

Three simple ingredients: strictly from his land!

It is said that the secret to achieve great results in the kitchen lies in carefully choosing the ingredients to use. Sal De Riso knows that well and for his creations he always chooses elements from his beloved Amalfi Coast. To make this dessert, he in fact tried to combine three simple ingredients together: the hazelnuts of Giffoni, the ricotta of Tramonti, and the pinnate pears of Agerola

Thanks to the combination of those simple elements into a dessert, the now-famous cake entered without hesitation in the history of Italian pastry.

But where did the idea of ​​this dessert come from?

Sal de Riso says that at that time he had the desire to create something new, which was not too complicated and only included local products. 

One day in August a farmer from Agerola gave him a box of small pinnate pears, which have a very sweet flavor, and rarely used in cake making. So, while he was thinking about how to make the most of the already ripe fruit, he began to clean it and experimented with it by cooking it in a pan. He liked the result very much and then, having in the laboratory the Tramonti ricotta and biscuits made with Giffoni hazelnuts, the idea took shape.

He wanted to best represent the Amalfi Coast and its people: humble and sweet (like pinnate pears), essential (like ricotta) but also strong (like hazelnuts). We all know the result very well: it is flawless and has given its creator national stardom.

A worldwide fame

As it should be, good recipes reach the tables of gourmets all over the world. The same happened with the delicious Torta ricotta e pere.
A lot of chefs claimed the idea as their own and try to imitate the original recipes, but the product has been trademarked by its original author. However, Sal De Riso does not worry particularly about the “copies” and lets simply the tasters decide which one is the best. From London to Paris, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria, all the restaurants serve ricotta and pears.
Among the many admirers of this delicacy, there is also the wife of the former President of the United States, Michelle Obama. It is said every time she eats at the exclusive Italian restaurant in Washington, she never refuses to end her meal with this coastal delight.

The recipe to prepare the "Torta ricotta e pere"

For the hazelnut bases

  • 138 gr Giffoni hazelnut flour
  • 175 gr (about 3) eggs
  • 100 gr sugar 
  • 75 gr butter
  • 00 flour 45 gr
  • A third of a vanilla pod
  • Hazelnut grains

For the pears

  • 350 gr pinnate pears of Agerola
  • 50 gr sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • 20 gr pear distillate
  • Corn starch 10 gr
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • A third of a vanilla pod

For the pear syrup

  • 100 gr water
  • 65 gr sugar
  • 12 gr distillate of pears
  • 12 gr rum 70%
  • A vanilla pod berry

For the ricotta cream

  • 200 gr fresh buffalo ricotta
  • 200 gr fresh ricotta cheese
  • 125 gr fresh liquid cream
  • 92 gr sugar
  • 10 gr jelly sheets
  • A third of a vanilla pod

To decorate

  • 1 small pinnata pear
  • 20 gr sugar
  • Icing sugar

For the caramel

  • 100 gr sugar
  • 60 gr water
  • 25 gr acacia honey


Step 1: the bases (at least 5 hours before use)

  • Melt 75 gr of butter on a low flame and let it cool.
  • In a planetary mixer, pour 3 eggs (175 gr), 100 gr of sugar, and ⅓ of the seeds of the vanilla pod and whip it at moderate speed for about 10 minutes. 
  • On a sheet of baking paper, mix 138 gr of Giffoni hazelnut flour (it is better to grind the hazelnuts 24 hours before using them so that they can rest) and 45 gr of sifted 00 flour.
  • Add the dry ingredients with the egg and sugar mixture, stirring with a spatula from the top downwards, and then slowly add the butter melted at room temperature. 
  • Preheat the oven to 205 °C in static mode, butter two baking pans of 22 cm, and pour the mixture into them with the help of a pastry bag, starting from the center and gradually spreading over the entire surface. With the remaining dough, you can create cookies for the final decoration of the cake, adding on them chopped hazelnuts.
  • Finally, bake the bases for about 13 minutes and the biscuits for about 6 minutes and let them cool.

Step 2: the pears

  • Peel 350 gr of Agerola pinnate pears, without throwing away the skins. To have crunchy pears, it is better to cut them into cubes and moisten them with 50 gr of sugar, 10 gr of corn starch, and 20 gr of lemon juice and then sauté them in a pan with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
  • After a few minutes add a little water and flavor with ⅓ of vanilla bean, let it cook for a few minutes, and then deglaze with 20 gr of pear distillate. 
  • Once it is ready, pour the pears and the juice into a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.

Step 3: pear syrup

  • For the syrup, pour in a saucepan: 100 gr of water and 65 gr of sugar, the seedless vanilla pod, and the skin of the pears. Cook until the sugar has dissolved and then let cool.
  • When the mixture is cold, add 12 gr of pear distillate and 12 g of 75% rum, mix and finally filter. 
  • In a bowl put a peeled pear covered with sugar, cover with plastic wrap and leave at least 1 hour in the fridge. After this time put it for 4 minutes in the microwave at maximum power.

Step 4: ricotta cream

  • Drain the ricotta from the whey (200 gr of buffalo ricotta and 200 gr of cheese ricotta) and pass it through the sieve.Add the vanilla seeds and 80 gr of sugar, mix everything with an electric whisk.
  • In a bowl put 10 grams of jelly sheets with cold water and then, after having squeezed a little, move it into a bowl on a saucepan, to melt it in a bain-marie.
  • Add a little ricotta cream, mix it a bit, and then add the mixture to the remaining ricotta cream.
  • In another bowl pour 125 gr of fresh liquid cream and 12 gr of sugar, whip it and then add to the ricotta cream. The result should be a smooth and soft cream.

Step 5: assembling the cake

  • Moisten one of the two discs with the pear syrup and then fill it with a layer of cream distributed with the sac-à-poche.
  • Add the cooked pears, another layer of cream and then use the spatula to make it uniform.
  • Place the second disc on the top, moisten with the pear syrup, and put in the freezer for at least 2 hours. When the cake is well assembled, prepare the caramel decorations by pouring water, honey, and sugar into a saucepan.
  • When it is ready, pour it onto a crumpled sheet of paper, spreading it out to create an uneven base.
  • Now sprinkle the cake with icing sugar, place the cooked pear on it (after cutting the base) and affix decorations made with caramel.
  • Finally, lay the biscuits all around the perimeter of the cake and leave it to rest for 4 hours in the fridge.

Credits cover image: G. Panarotto, from ‘Profumo di limone’, ed. Italian Gourmet.

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