Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars

Inspired by a trip to Florence, Italy, my Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars are perfectly moist and studded with Amarena cherries.

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.

Andrew and me in front of the beautiful Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence. Unfortunately, you can barely see the Ponte Vecchio behind us!

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!

My favorite brand of Amarena cherries is Fabbri, the brand I bought in Italy. Click to view or purchase on Amazon [aff. link].

Amarena Cherries

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.

My favorite vanilla paste. Click to view or purchase on Amazon [aff. link].

Vanilla Paste

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. 

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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].

4.70 from 10 votes

Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars

Inspired by a trip to Florence, Italy, my Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars are perfectly moist with a graham cracker crust, and studded with Amarena cherries.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Servings: 9 squares
Print Recipe


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 45-50 minutes, until the top and edges are golden brown. 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 cooled completely. Let the bars cool to room temperature for 2 hours 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.


It's critical that these bars cool completely before slicing.  Let them cool for 2 hours on the countertop before slicing.
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14 Responses

  1. 5 stars
    I love recipes that are inspired by travels! (I also happen to love…LOVE…Italy, too.) These bars sound delicious, and I did hear that Trader Joe’s carries Amarena cherries. I didn’t realize that it was a holiday item, though, so that means I need to get myself down to Trader Joe’s before the holidays are over. This sounds like the perfect dessert for the holidays! (Also, thanks for the walking tour tip. Filing that away for the next vacation!)

    1. Isn’t Italy the BEST?!!! Some of the very best food in the world, no doubt! Oh for sure, stock up on those Amarena cherries! I can’t get enough haha. Thank you so much for your kind comment Dave!

    2. I’m nervous. Have the bars in for 35 minutes & they are already browned all over. Do I keep them in? I put my heart & soul into this.

      1. Hi Marion!

        I would leave them in. The top will get golden brown. If you take them out too early, the middle won’t cook through, and will cave in.

        Thanks for your comment Marion, keep me posted!

  2. 5 stars
    As soon as you mentioned “reminiscent of cheesecake” at the start of this post Shannon I knew I had to add these bars to my “must make” recipe list. They look so delicious! I was a student when I was back-packing round Europe and visited Florence so many years ago. I hope to visit there again one day, with more money so that I can actually experience the pastries. All we could do as penniless students was look into the bakery windows and drool! Ha ha!

    1. Awww thank you so much Neal!!! Haha oh I totally know what you mean! How amazing would it be to visit Florence with an unlimited budget for pastries?!!! Back-packing through Europe sounds amazing too! I’ve never backpacked, but my first experience traveling through Europe was staying at cheap student hostels in various cities, and I can totally relate to seeing all those amazing pastries and wishing I could eat them all!

  3. FYI, amarena cherries are not just a holiday item in the US. They are used in cocktails and you can find the Luxardo brand at most liquor stores. They are very expensive but there’s nothing quite like them.

    1. Thanks for commenting Amy! That’s great to hear that amarena cherries are available at liquor stores in the US. I agree, there’s nothing quite like them!

  4. 5 stars
    Excellent bars! I will definitely make this recipe again, so good and very unique! Thank heaven amarena cherries are getting easier to find. I remember a few years ago I could only find them at Christmastime at Trader Joe’s. I think they’re gaining popularity!

    1. Thanks Jen, I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe! I agree, amarena cherries are definitely gaining popularity!

  5. 5 stars
    I am a huge fan of Amarena Cherries and have been looking for recipes featuring them because I purchased a huge tin of them from Amazon instead of small jars. Every year I make a Black Forest cake with Amarena cherries and I bake a Boozy Italian Chocolate Cherry cake on a regular basis. I’m so glad I found your recipe! I made it a few days ago and it was a huge hit with me and my son and his wife. I’ll definitely be making it again. I’d prefer using a pie plate rather than my 8” x 8” pan (it’s metal) since I have several large glass deep dish pie plates. Any suggestions as to what size I should use? Also, I used a hand mixer instead of a spatula and think I incorporated too much air. I’ll use a spatula next time. It didn’t really matter, the cake was delicious. Thank you for the recipe!

    1. Hi Betty, thank you for commenting! I’m so happy to hear that the recipe was a hit with your family! Your Black Forest cake and Italian Chocolate Cherry cake sound delicious as well 😋. Buying Amarena cherries in a large tin is such a great idea, I need to do that as well! The small jars just don’t last long enough. I’ve never made these bars in a pie dish, but I would think a 9.5 inch glass pie dish would be a good option (I’m looking at my Pyrex Easy Grab 9.5” pie dish that’s 1.75 inches high). And I’d be so interested in any textural changes you notice between the hand mixer and spatula. Thanks again for making the recipe Betty, and for commenting!

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