My Mom Taught Me to Say Thank You with A Lemon & Pine Nut Ricotta Tart

  • RE: Ricotta Tart
  • Brenda Jensen
  • Hidden Hills Creamery
  • Westby, Wisconsin
  • www​.hiddenspringscreamery​.com

Dear Brenda,

Thank you so much for supplying the cheese for my recent FoodBuzz 24–24-24 challenge featuring a meal Tyler Florence showed us how to make when I was at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival. I made Roasted Lamb with Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Gnocchi, Morel Mushrooms & Pea Tendrils. The gnocchi from your cheese was the star of the plate!

Tyler taught me how to make light and fluffy ricotta gnocchi. Finally learning the secret to pillowy gnocchi was a very exciting event in my life. According to Tyler, the key to success is quality ingredients. He particularly gushed about the superiority of sheep’s milk ricotta in this preparation. There is something about the butterfat content that just makes it very wonderful to work with. Of course, this same butterfat makes it best to work the dough very cold, something else I learned that day.

But for me, it’s that special tang that makes sheep’s milk ricotta such an enticing product. But, as you must know, sheep’s milk ricotta is difficult to come by– even in Los Angeles where everything seems to be at hand. Fortunately, you came to my rescue.


ricotta cheese scoopMy meal came out spectacularly well too. A large part of that success was due to the quality of your amazing cheese. I understand you have many varieties of sheep’s milk cheese. I hope to try every single one of them. I am so happy to see that you have an online shop where these great cheeses are available.

Also, I understand you have a Bed and Breakfast right on the property amongst the rolling hills and meadows, and of course all your wonderful sheep. Now that would be a special weekend indeed! I am so glad you made the information about the Bed and Breakfast available on your site.

You were so generous with your cheese that I actually had leftover cheese. The special buttery quality and that wonderful sweet and sour tang immediately brought to mind a wonderful dessert I enjoyed in Italy some years ago. So to thank you I have baked you pine nut tart shella cake. Well, actually it’s a tart. It’s a Lemon and Pine Nut Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Tart. I think it would be great with some fresh strawberries.

I love this tart because it is rich and creamy, but not too sweet. Rich desserts are much better without too much cloying sugar in my opinion. The lemon is a wonderful partner to the sheep’s milk ricotta and the gentle crunch of pine nuts adds so much to the texture as well as the flavors in this delicious dessert.

In fact, the pine nuts are so perfect in this recipe that I opted to put them in the crust! The tart filling is my creation. But I owe the pine nut pastry shell to the genius of Thomas Keller.

All these things make this a pretty special tart, and I hope it does your wonderful cheese justice. Because I have to admit I was tempted to spoon the last of this cheese straight from the container and into my mouth. But then I thought it was much better to share this delicious cheese with everyone here. Because honestly, I want the world to have the chance to taste the fruits of your love and labor, seeing for themselves why sheep’s milk ricotta is so special.

Lemon and Pine Nut Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Tart serves 8 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 2 1/2 c pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 T lemon zest
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice
  • 350 g sheep’s milk ricotta
  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 1 pt fresh strawberries, washed and halved (optional)

lemon ricotta tartTart Shell:
Place 2 cups of the pine nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the sugar and flour and continue to pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Add the butter, 1 egg, and vanilla extract and mix to incorporate all the ingredients (the dough can be mixed by hand or in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment). Divide the dough into three equal parts. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes before using.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter and flour a 4 x 13-inch rectangular or 9‑inch round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and refrigerate it while the oven preheats.

Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator. Use your fingertips to press the chilled pine nut dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim off any excess dough.

Bake the crust for 10 to 15 minutes, then rotate it and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Remove the crust from the oven and let it cool while you make the filling. (There may be some cracks in the crust; they will not affect the finished tart.)

Add the remaining 2 eggs, ricotta, sugar, lemon zest and juice in a medium-sized bowl and mix until fluffy and well combined. Add 1/4 of the pine nuts and stir to incorporate. Pour the mixture into the slightly cooled pastry shell. Top the pastry with the remaining pine nuts, pressing down on them gently to assure that they adhere.

Bake the tart in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, until the filling is lightly set. cool, remove from the tin and serve with fresh strawberries (optional).


Greg Henry