Last week, I made a batch of the most luscious homemade ricotta cheese. I do this often. Ricotta is super easy to make, and the homemade stuff is so, so delicious. Unfortunately, I got a distracted and left it draining in cheesecloth longer than I’d planned. The result was an incredibly smooth, thick and creamy product that reminded me a little of mascarpone. For the next few days we spread it on bagels and muffins. We made a crazy good crostini with it and heirloom tomatoes from our garden one night too. And, when no one else was looking, I just scooped it up with a spoon. It was heavenly!
As I was scraping the last bit of my lovely ricotta out of its container, it dawned on me that it would make the perfect filling for a tart. One with fresh fruit – like berries. Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. A Red, White & Blue Ricotta Tart for the Fourth of July. Hah! Sometimes, I dazzle myself so much with my own brilliance, that I need to wear sunglasses inside.
So, I made another batch of ricotta, grabbed a whole bunch of berries and whipped up this fabulous tart for our Fourth of July celebration. And, you can too!
As I mentioned above, making your own ricotta is quite easy to do. I’ve used a few different recipes, and this one  is my current favorite. But, you can certainly save some time and make this tart with store bought ricotta. The trick to turning it into a wonderful mascarpone-like filling is in the draining. Commercial ricotta is very “wet”. By letting it sit in a strainer lined with cheesecloth, all of the excess moisture drains out and you’re left with a nice, thick cheese. It’s the same as making strained yogurt – only you do it with ricotta. (Whoa! I’m good!)
While your ricotta is draining, the first thing you need to do is make the crust. I chose a simple graham cracker crust, but you can make any kind you want. By the time your crust is completely cooled, the ricotta should be ready for your filling.
Fill the tart shell with the ricotta filling and smooth it out. I like to chill it for a while at this point so that the berries don’t “sink” when I put them on top. You can use this time to make the glaze for the berries. Or, for taking a nap. I recommend making the glaze. You can take a nap later.
Once the filling is chilled and the berries are all dressed in their shiny glaze, it’s time to decorate your tart.
I like to keep it simple so there’s less chance of me screwing things up. For this tart, I halved the strawberries and lined them up around the perimeter of the tart, like a border. Then, I just piled the blueberries and raspberries right in the middle. I could have arranged them in a fancy design or even made “stars” and “stripes” to look like a flag, but honestly, who has that kind of time! Besides, I like that casual and kind of tossed together look they have. I think it’s pretty. So there!
Here’s a gratuitous shot of the blueberries and raspberries in the center of the tart. I just liked the bokeh.
Before you serve your tart, you should let it chill out in the fridge for a few more hours – especially if you plan to photograph it. Trust me, this will make it easier and a lot neater to cut.
Here’s what it looks like on the inside. Since I’m planning to serve my tart this weekend, I just chopped off a slice from one end. After I took a few pictures, I stuck it back on, and put a few more berries on top to camouflage the cut. I don’t think anyone will notice, but if they do – tough! Ah! The things I do for you, my dear readers!
While I didn’t actually eat any of this tart, (remember, I’m saving it for this weekend), I did make myself a teeny, tiny one to taste. After all, how could I tell you how scrumptious it is if I didn’t try it myself? And, it definitely is scrumptious! The filling is light and fluffy, but not too sweet. It makes a perfect backdrop for those gorgeous, fresh, juicy berries. The graham cracker crust is appropriately crunchy, yet not hard enough to chip a tooth on. (Yes. That has happened before.) And, that berry topping is…well…that berry topping just sends the whole thing right over the top!
Red, White & Blue Ricotta Tart
For the crust:
- 3 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
For the filling:
- 2 cups homemade or 2 1/2 cups store bought ricotta cheese
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar (You can add more if you want it sweeter.)
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
For the topping:
- 1 pint strawberries, rinsed, hulled and cut in half
- 1 pint blueberries, rinsed and dried
- 1 pint raspberries, rinsed and dried
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Sure-Jell for low-sugar recipes (the pink box)
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- To make the crust: Whisk graham cracker crumbs and sugar together in a bowl. Stir in melted butter with a fork until well blended. Press mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 13 x 4-inch rectangular or 9-inch round tart pan. Bake for 10 minutes, or just until the crust starts to color. Cool on a wire rack.
- To make the filling: If using homemade ricotta, skip this step. If using store bought ricotta, line a wire mesh strainer with cheesecloth and place over a bowl. Put the ricotta into the strainer and let drain in the refrigerator for several hours. The excess liquid will collect in the bowl and the ricotta will become very thick and creamy. Discard the liquid.
- Put ricotta into a large mixing bowl with the sugar. Beat the ricotta and sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in the lemon juice and the vanilla. Set aside.
- Pour the heavy cream into another bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the ricotta mixture until completely combined. Set aside and make the topping.
- To make the topping: Select about 6 ounces of the least ripe or attractive strawberries berries, and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Slice the rest of the strawberries in half and set aside in a bowl. Mix the blueberries and raspberries together in another bowl and set aside.
- Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, Sure-Jell, and salt together in a medium saucepan. Stir in the strawberry puree. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, and bring to a full boil. Allow to boil, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent scorching, for 2 minutes. The mixture will thicken as it cooks. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let cool to room temperature.
- When cooled, toss strawberries with about 1/3 of the glaze, and toss the blueberries and raspberries with the rest.
- To assemble the tart: Spoon the ricotta filling into the cooled tart shell and smooth with a spatula. Chill for about 30 minutes to set before adding the fruit topping.
- Decoratively place the strawberries on top of the filling around the perimeter of the tart. Gently pile the blueberries and raspberries into the center of the tart. Chill the tart for at least 1 hour before serving.