Cassola is an easy-to-prepare, flour-free cheesecake, mainly composed of ricotta and eggs. It is one of the oldest desserts in Jewish Roman cuisine with multiple theories as to its humble origins; some believe that the use of ricotta indicates it originated in Sicily; others attest that the addition of cinnamon implies that it is a creation of Spanish Jews. Wherever Cassola came from, its modern day status as the unofficial Christmas dessert of Rome has cemented its place in both Jewish and Italian cuisine.
It is an incredibly versatile cake: the cinnamon can be replaced with other options (see variations at the end of the recipe), which creates a totally different dessert. Those who want an extra kick can do as the Italians do and grease the pan generously with olive oil, which adds tartness to the cake’s flavor.
Ingredients for Easy Cheesecake
- 8.5-9.5" Springform pan
For the Cake
- 4 eggs large
- ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon (160 grams) Sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon ground
- pinch Salt
- 26.5 oz (750 grams) ricotta
To Garnish (optional)
- cherries Fresh or Amarena cherries or any other red fruit
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees (200C) or 350 degrees (180C) if using a convection oven. Line the bottom and sides of a springform pan with parchment paper.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, cinnamon and salt for about 5 minutes, until you get an airy and stable, but not stiff, foam.
3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl mash the ricotta with a fork until softened slightly.
4. Fold a quarter of the softened ricotta into the egg mixture. Before the cheese is completely integrated, add another quarter of the cheese and fold in. Repeat with the remaining ricotta until you get a uniform mixture, thick but not stiff.
5. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until the surface of the cake gets a deep golden hue and the cake is firm in the center. Cool at room temperature on a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with or without cherries.
Replace the cinnamon with the zest from one lemon or orange.
Replace the cinnamon with ½–¾ cup raisins soaked in wine.
Heat 1/4 cup of honey with a sprig of fresh za’atar or thyme until the honey turns liquid. Turn off the flame and wait for about an hour. Before serving, drizzle some of the seasoned honey over the cake and place a sprig of za’atar or thyme on it to garnish.