When I set out to create this Italian Cheesecake I knew it would be good, but it is literally THE BEST cheesecake I have ever made! It is so light, and creamy, and don't even get me started on the crust, it's absolutely fantastic.
An Italian Cheesecake is much different than a New York style cheesecake. NY is supposed to be dense and stiff, but this Italian version is super airy and the ricotta makes it ultra-light.
While we are talking about the ricotta, be sure to buy a really great quality one. Brands to trust are BelGioioso or Murray's, run of the mill grocery store ricotta won't do, it is not as smooth and will produce a grainy cheesecake. The real greatness of this cheesecake comes from the blend of mascarpone, cream chees, and ricotta.
And I know this ingredient list looks like a lot, but there are 3 parts to this recipe, and the active time to make it is not that great, so don't be scared off. The last ingredient I am going to highlight here is the butter, cheesecake should be decadent, so I use Irish butter to make the crust, and it just makes it a little extra yummy!
Use the JUMP TO RECIPE button at the top of the post, or scroll to the bottom of the post to see the full recipe card with ingredient measurements and instructions.
As most cheesecakes start, you will make the crust first. For this recipe, I mix graham cracker crumbs, ground hazelnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and butter together until a sandy mixture forms. Then press the crust into a springform pan and bake for 8 minutes.
To make the cheesecake batter, cream together all the cheeses in the bowl of a stand mixer before adding in the sugar, color, cream, vanilla, and salt. Finish by beating the eggs in just till combined.
Pour the batter into the baked crust and return it to the oven. Bake till just set and the cheesecake still has a slight wiggle to it. This cheesecake is also baked without a water bath, which is fine because the batter is a little more wet than a NY cheesecake and you want it to dry out a tiny bit instead of steam. You also don't need to worry about cracks or minor browning, that will happen and we will cover it up.
After the cheesecake has been baked and chilled for at least a few hours or overnight in the fridge, mix up the ganache and spread it over the top to completely cover the cheesecake. Then finish it with some chopped hazelnuts and flakey sea salt sprinkled over the top.
The nuts give some crunch and the salt gives amazing balance. It doesn't make the cheesecake salty it just highlights all the flavors and makes them richer. It also brings fantastic balance to each bite!
A couple of tips I can share for THE cleanest cuts is to toss the cheesecake in the freezer for 3-45 minutes after you put the ganache on to firm everything up. Also, cut the cake with a very sharp knife that has rested in a pitcher of hot water, wipe the knife off, then cut, dip it in the water, and clean after each cut.
Notes & Tips
One of the biggest keys to getting the texture of this cheesecake PERFECT is ensuring that ALL, EVERY SINGLE ONE, of the ingredients, is at room temp. The cream cheese and the mascarpone especially! They won't blend in smoothly if they are not almost warm when mixing them together.
You can bake and chill the cheesecake up to 3 days before you want to serve it, then make the ganache and top just before serving. Store leftovers in the fridge, tightly wrapped.
As the cheesecake warms up the ganache will thin a little, it is normal for it to begin dripping down the sides, I actually love that it does that!
If you'd like this cheesecake to be gluten-free, swap the graham cracker crumbs for gluten-free ones, and swap the flour for cup-for-cup baking flour.
If you can find hazelnut meal or flour, swap that for whole hazelnuts. I don't come across it that often so I typically toast and grind my own. I kind of like this because I get some larger chunks in the crust, but using hazelnut flour is A.O.K.
The blend of the three cheeses is what really makes this cheesecake great. The only one that is slightly negotiable is the mascarpone, you would use cream cheese in its place, I know I sometimes can't find the mascarpone so that's a great option.