Marriage Italian Style is a 1964 film starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastoianni which tells the story of a successful business man who has kept a mistress for many years but now plans on marrying another woman until his mistress pretends to be on her deathbed in order to trick him into marrying her before she dies. To say the least it is a complicated bittersweet relationship. Kinda like the flavors in this Ricotta Cheesecake and my relationship with it as well.
It started off as love at first site. Every minute of the prep I enjoyed. I enjoyed all the ingredients going into it: aniseed, orange zest, marsala soaked raisins; MMmmmm! I loved that I didn't need a stand mixer, which made the composition on the desserts so organic. And when the cake finally came out of the oven, it looked so sexy.
Then I plated it and adorned it with some beautiful Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce and Candied Orange. It couldn't have been more lovely.
Finally, I lifted a fork of light and luscious cheesecake into my mouth and was conflicted. Did I like this? It sure did look good, but I did not want to commit my affection to it with all this uncertainty. It didn't taste like cheesecake, it was very very different. Light with subtle flavors of anise and orange instead of heavy with a strong flavor of sweet cream cheese. At one point I even apologized for making it because I was so caught off-guard. However, if I was completely honest I did like it, but it was a new sort of "like" that just took time for me to pinpoint, and I think will take more time to curate. It was precious, special but not indulgent. A subtle and sophisticated dessert that didn't kick you in the teeth.
Then I read the caveat before the recipe in David Lebovitz's book Ready for Dessert and finally understood the process I was going through, "American cheesecake is to Italian cheesecake what slouching around the house in a sweatshirt and jeans is to stepping out on the town in a tailored Armani suit. When I stopped comparing Italian cheesecake to its comfy American cousin, I was finally won over."
So at the end of it all I committed. I loved this dessert and I felt elegant eating it, kind of like I was wearing my own little black number by Armani.
Here are some shots of the prep and final product below and some links to all the recipes.
Candied Orange (I tenthed this recipe and just used one orange)
Look at the beautiful crushed aniseed.
The chocolate sauce has such a great flavor and consistency.
The final marriage of it all. Molto Bene!