Strawberries are one of my favorite fruits and can be used in savory dishes as well as sweet desserts and when I saw a photo on the Closet Cooking blog I could not resist making this lovely Lemon Ricotta Strawberry Tart with a Shortbread Crust for my daughter-in-law, Gillian’s birthday brunch. You can read all about our party on the posting for Sweet Baby Walla Walla Onions Quiche with Tomatoes.
This tart has a slightly sweetened shortbread crust with a lemony flavor and the filling is a no-bake cheesecake made with ricotta and cream cheese, flavored with lemon juice and lemon zest. But it was the strawberries arranged to resemble a flower that really got me! The recipe has been adapted from Kevin Lynch’s blog at Closet Cooking and it makes a spectacular presentation.
When making the shortbread crust I had to restrain myself from adding additional liquid to form a dough, having to remind myself that this is not a standard pastry crust, as it was very crummy. But, I persevered and after pouring the mix into the tart dish, I used the back of a tablespoon to push and firm the crumbs up the sides which worked perfectly.
Because of the ricotta cheese being naturally grainy, the filling will not as smooth and creamy as a regular cheesecake. The fun part of this tart was arranging the ‘flower’ of sliced strawberries on top. My suggestion is to refrigerate the pie without the strawberries to firm up the filling before adding the strawberries. At this point, you can make this a day ahead and add the strawberries before serving. The tart is best eaten the day that the fruit is added.
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For the Crust:
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/4 cup powdered/confectioners sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
For the Filling:
- 2 packages cream cheese, 8 ounces each
- 24 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 package Knox gelatin
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, heated in microwave
- zest from 1 lemon
- 2 pounds strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
For the Crust
- Preheat oven to 400°F
- Cream the butter, mix in the sugar, lemon zest and salt followed by the flour and mix until it forms crumbs. Turn the mixture into a 10” tart dish/pan. Using the back of a spoon, press the mixture up the sides first and then smooth out the crumbs evenly over the bottom, pressing down slightly. (Cover with plastic wrap and use a flat bottomed measuring cup as you press the bottom). Blind-bake the crust, lined with foil or parchment paper, add pastry weights, rice or beans.
- Transfer to the middle rack of the oven and bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before adding the filling.
For the Lemon-Ricotta No-Bake Cheesecake filling:
- In a stand mixer, add the softened cream cheese and sugar and beat together until well incorporated and smooth. Stop the motor and add the ricotta cheese and on the medium speed beat the mixture for 30 seconds or so to combine.
- In a small bowl dissolve the gelatin in the 1/4 cup of water. Add the hot lemon juice and stir until the mixture is cool, syrupy and lump-free. Add the cooled gelatin-lemon juice mixture to the cheese mixture and beat together to combine.
- Pour the cheese filling into the baked, cooled crust and smooth the top. Transfer the tart to the refrigerator for several hours or overnight to firm up. Arrange the sliced strawberries on the firm filling to resemble flower petals. Refrigerate until ready to serve.