These beautiful Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars are one of my favorite desserts.
Moist with a graham cracker crumb crust, these bars are a little reminiscent of cheesecake. But they’re more cakey, and the cheese taste is pretty mild.
Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bar Inspiration
These Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars were inspired by a recent trip to Italy. While in Florence, Andrew and I did an amazing four-hour walking tour of the city.
Four-hours is a pretty long tour. So about halfway through, our guide took us to her favorite café for a short break.
And of course I got a pastry.
It took awhile to choose because everything looked amazing, but I finally selected a beautiful slice of cake that was studded with what looked like rubies.
I soon learned that those “rubies” were Amarena cherries.
Amarena Cherries: No Equivalent
There is truly no equivalent to Amarena cherries in the US. Not at all like maraschino cherries, the flavor of Amarena cherries is rich, deep, and elegant.
And completely addicting.
We bought a jar of Amarena cherries at the COOP next to our Airbnb in Romito Magra, with the intention to recreate that wonderful cake when we got home.
I successfully got the jar of cherries back home.
I did not successfully make the cake. Because I ate the whole jar of cherries before I had a chance to experiment with a recipe.
It worked out in the end though, because I discovered that Trader Joe’s carries Amarena cherries during the holiday season.
It took some discipline, but I finally succeeded in getting the cherries home without eating them all. And this recipe is the result.
Make These Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars!
I hope a trip to Italy is in my near future.
But until then, these bars are a delicious substitute.
A Few Things!
Amarena cherries seem to be a holiday item in the US. You can find the brand I bought in Italy here on Amazon [aff. link] if you can’t find these cherries at the grocery store.
I love baking with vanilla paste. It adds those gorgeous flecks of vanilla bean to these bars, and ups that vanilla flavor a bit more than vanilla extract alone.
This recipe calls for 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 1 tsp vanilla paste. If don’t have vanilla paste, you can substitute it with another tsp of vanilla extract. But I highly recommend getting some vanilla paste. Here is my favorite vanilla paste on Amazon [aff. link].
Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars
For the graham cracker crust:
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- 1 Tbsp almond milk
- 1 Tbsp sugar
For the filling:
- 1 cup ricotta
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp vanilla paste, (or additional tsp vanilla extract)
- 1 tsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
- ½ tsp lime zest, freshly grated
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup milk
- ¾ cup flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 25 Amarena cherries, cut each cherry in half
Make the crust
- Add the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, almond milk, and sugar to a small mixing bowl. With a spatula, mix everything together. Set the spatula aside, and use your fingers to finish mixing everything together.
- Press the graham cracker crust into the bottom of an oiled 8x8 inch glass baking dish.
Add the cherries
- Now arrange your sliced Amarena cherries on top of the crust.
- I like to get as many cherries in these bars as possible, so I arrange the cherries in rows very close together. Set aside.
Make the filling
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the ricotta, sugar, vanilla, vanilla paste, lime juice, and zest.
- Now add the egg and milk. Whisk until incorporated.
- Next, add the flour, salt, and baking soda. Whisk until everything is smooth and incorporated.
Compile the bars
- Pour the filling evenly over the crust and cherries. Try not to displace the cherries, but don’t worry too much—the cherries will stay pretty stationary on their own.
Bake the bars
- Bake the bars at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes, until the top and edges are slightly browned. The middle will be mostly set, but there will still be a slight bit of jiggle.
Cool the bars
- Like cheesecake, these bars won’t acquire their final texture and taste until they've had a chance to cool fully. Let the bars cool to room temperature, about 3 hours, before slicing.
- Alternately, you can cool them in the refrigerator. Place the dish in the refrigerator for about 2 hours, until the bars are completely cool, before slicing.
Serve and enjoy!
- Serve these bars as a holiday or year-round treat.
- Store these Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars in the refrigerator, tightly sealed, for up to 3 days.