From Peter Salerno’s Kitchen: Sicilian Ricotta Cake Recipe

Perfect Recipe for Classic Sicilian Ricotta Cake

Need the perfect dessert recipe to compliment the perfect cup of coffee from your TopBrewer coffee brewing system? Why not try out a classic Sicilian dessert recipe, tested and approved by Peter Salerno?

Ricotta cake (also known as Cassata) is a staple dessert from the classic Sicilian cookbook, with the perfect blend of sweet and savory, rich and creamy, light and airy. As usual, our friends at Saveur have created our favorite recipe for Sicilian ricotta cake, rimmed with pistacho marzipan and created with a touch of Grand Marnier.

This ricotta cake (cassata) recipe will leave you begging for seconds! (Credit Wikimedia)
This ricotta cake (cassata) recipe will leave you begging for seconds! (Credit Wikimedia)

From your first bite of this ricotta cake, you will experience the rich creaminess of ricotta, the zest of orange, the lightness of confectioner’s sugar, and the nutty balance of pistachio marzipan. Try it for yourself – we’re sure it’ll become a household dessert favorite!

Cassata (Ricotta Cake) Recipe: Courtesy of Saveur


Butter, for greasing pan
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. flour, sifted, plus more for pan
⅔ cup plus ¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. orange zest
6 eggs
1 cup shelled pistachios
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. Grand Marnier liqueur
1 lb. ricotta, drained overnight in a cheesecloth-lined strainer, or ricotta impastata
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Whole candied fruits, such as oranges, apricots, and cherries, halved
Candied citron, cut in strips


1. Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9″ cake pan; set aside. Combine ⅔ cup sugar, zest, and eggs in a large bowl and beat on high speed of a mixer until pale and light, about 5 minutes. Add flour and fold to combine. Pour into cake pan and smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack, let cake cool completely, and remove cake from pan. Using a serrated knife, cut cake crosswise into ½″-thick strips; set aside.

2. Line bottom and sides of a 12″ metal pie plate with plastic wrap; set aside. Process pistachios in a food processor until finely chopped. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and process until finely ground. With processor running, slowly add enough egg white to form a smooth dough. Transfer dough to a work surface dusted with confectioners’ sugar and knead until smooth. Using a rolling pin, roll marzipan until ¼″ thick. Cut into 2″-wide strips and line side of pie plate with strips, flattening where they overlap to form one continuous ring; set aside.

3. Heat ¼ cup sugar and ¼ cup water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until sugar dissolves, then stir in Grand Marnier; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining sugar, ricotta, vanilla, and cinnamon until smooth, 2–3 minutes; set aside.

4. To assemble, line bottom of prepared pie plate with cake strips, cutting to fit, and then sprinkle with 5 tbsp. Grand Marnier syrup; place ricotta mixture on top of cake and spread evenly to fill pie plate, smoothing top. Cover top of ricotta mixture with remaining cake slices, cutting to fit evenly, and drizzle with remaining syrup; trim excess pistachio marzipan and then wrap pie plate in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, 2 hours. Meanwhile, combine remaining confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl to make a thick glaze. Invert pie plate onto a serving dish and peel off plastic wrap. Pour glaze over cake to cover evenly. Decorate with candied fruits. Refrigerate cake until set, 2 hours or overnight.

From Peter Salerno’s Kitchen: Eggplant Caponata

Looking for a delicious, authentic Sicilian appetizer or side dish for your next traditional Italian dinner? If you’re looking for a fresh take on classic Sicilian ingredients that’s sure to be a crowd pleaser for even the most discriminating Italian taste buds, then Caponata is the perfect dish for your table.

Caponata (also spelled “capunata”) is a traditional Sicilian eggplant dish that forms a beautiful vegetable salad that pairs perfectly with fish entrees. The eggplant is chopped and fried in olive oil, then served with a melange of vegetables, pine nuts  and celery in a sweet and sour sauce.

From Peter Salerno's Kitchen: SAVEUR's outstanding recipe for caponata.
From Peter Salerno’s Kitchen: SAVEUR’s outstanding recipe for caponata.

There are many variations on caponata, but our favorite comes from a reliable source: the fine people at SAVEUR have once again provided an outstanding, authentic Sicilian recipe that has graced our table more than once. Their unique blend of sweet and sour, utilizing a wide variety of ingredients (from green olives to unsweetened chocolate!), creates the perfect blend for eggplant caponata.

Try it for yourself. We think you’ll be thrilled with the result, and your guests will find this recipe for caponata one-of-a-kind – and leave them begging for seconds!

Peter Salerno’s Favorite Caponata Recipe (from SAVEUR)



3 cups olive oil
2 lbs. eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tbsp. tomato paste, thinned with ¼ cup water
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes
6 oz. green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
½ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. finely grated unsweetened chocolate
½ cup finely shredded basil
2 tbsp. pine nuts


  • Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Working in batches, add eggplant and fry, tossing occasionally, until browned, 3–4 minutes.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to a large bowl; set aside.
  • Pour off all but ¼ cup oil, and reserve for another use.
  • Return skillet to heat, add onions and celery, and season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, 10 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium, and add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until caramelized and almost evaporated, 1–2 minutes.
  • Add crushed tomatoes and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
  • Stir in olives, vinegar, raisins, capers, sugar, and chocolate, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes.
  • Transfer to bowl with eggplant, along with basil and pine nuts, and mix together.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and let cool to room temperature before serving.

Classic French Recipe: Coq au Vin

A beautiful preparation of Coq au Vin.
A beautiful preparation of Coq au Vin. (Credit Steven de Polo, Wiki Commons)

We’ve spent so much time over the last 2 months talking about the best in French kitchen design that we’ve started to get a little hungry. And what better way to nourish ourselves after a long trip through the French countryside than with a staple of French cuisine – a classic recipe for coq au vin?

Popularized in the United States by Julia Child in both her 1961 cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and on her PBS show The French Chef, coq au vin is a traditional French dish mainly comprised of chicken (or capon) braised with wine and prepared with mushrooms, onions, garlic, lardons, and seasonings. While the traditional wine in coq au vin is Burgundy, different regions of France use local wine varieties to create their own “twists” on coq au vin. For example, Alsace is known for their coq au vin Riesling.

We thought we’d cap off the month of October – and our review of some stunning French design inspirations – by sharing a recipe for Coq au Vin, courtesy of the fine staff at SAVEUR. SAVEUR is the definitive culinary and culinary-travel magazine of its generation. It has been honored with four American Society of Magazine Editors awards (including one for general excellence) and 17 James Beard journalism awards.

Classic Coq au Vin Recipe (from SAVEUR)



4 cups red wine
1 3–4-lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 bouquet garni (12 sprigs thyme, 5 sprigs parsley, and 3 bay leaves tied together with kitchen twine)
2 tbsp. olive oil
10 oz. peeled pearl onions
12 oz. white button mushrooms, quartered
10 oz. bacon, cut into ½” pieces
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup chicken stock
Finely chopped parsley leaves, to garnish


1. Combine wine, chicken, yellow onion, and bouquet garni in a bowl; cover with plastic wrap, and let marinate in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain chicken, onions, and bouquet garni, reserving wine, and set aside. Dry chicken thoroughly with paper towels.

2. Heat oil in a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pearl onions, and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned and tender, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add mushrooms to pot, and cook, stirring, until they release all their moisture and brown lightly, about 8 minutes. Transfer to bowl with pearl onions; set aside. Add bacon to pot, and cook, stirring, until it renders its fat and is crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain; set aside. Add 1 tbsp. butter to pot, and then season chicken with salt and pepper, and add to pot; cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate, and set aside. Add drained yellow onions to pot, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add flour, and cook, stirring, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in reserved wine and stock, and then return chicken to pot along with bouquet garni; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender, about 15 minutes.

3. Remove from heat, and stir in pearl onions and mushrooms. Divide among serving bowls, and garnish with rendered bacon and parsley.