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Italian Rice Pie combines tender arborio rice and ricotta cheese with a creamy cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange-infused custard in a graham cracker crust.
There’s always room for one more delicious dessert on your Easter holiday dinner menu, and this Italian Rice Pie is sure to be a crowd favorite!
It’s basically a cross between a rice pudding and a ricotta cheesecake. The filling is sweet and creamy, while the tender, cooked rice gives each forkful some body and texture. There are hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange zest throughout, and a graham cracker crust adds more sweet flavor.
There are many different variations of Italian Rice Pie, and it goes by different names including, pastiera di riso (tarte of rice), pastiera Napoletana (a nod to the Naples region of Italy where this dessert originated) and torta di riso. Some variations are served in a pie crust, others are baked in a springform or baking dish with crust on the bottom. Some have lemon flavors, while others have orange. (All of them are delicious!)
Why You’ll Love Italian Rice Pie
- It’s absolutely delicious with sweet, spiced, and citrus flavors throughout the creamy filling.
- This pie is easy to prepare, plus it can be made ahead so it’s ready to serve on Easter Sunday.
- This dessert is a perfect way to end delicious Easter meals.
Key ingredients and Substitutions
- Arborio Rice – This is an Italian short-grain rice and the only rice to use for this pie. It’s the same rice used in risotto, and it cooks up plump, round and chewy. It’s also very starchy so it adds a creaminess to the finished dish.
- Graham Crackers – The simple crust is made from graham cracker crumbs along with brown sugar, butter and salt. You can swap in other biscuit crumbs if you’d like, but we thought the graham cracker flavors were a perfect match for the sweet and creamy filling.
- Ricotta Cheese & Other Dairy – Whole milk ricotta cheese is included in the filling, while whole milk and heavy cream are used to cook the rice. Don’t skimp on lower fat dairy – the creamy texture won’t be the same.
- Eggs – Another ingredient that helps give the filling a creamy custard-like texture and taste.
- Granulated Sugar
- Flavors – We used a whole vanilla bean in the filling, but you can substitute a good quality vanilla extract instead. Orange peel flavors the rice as it cooks, and orange juice and zest flavor the custard. Ground cinnamon and nutmeg are also added to the custard.
Special supplies needed
- Large non-stick saucepan, to cook the rice
- Large bowl, to mix the filling
- 9” springform pan
- Large flat oven-proof pan, to use for the water bath
How do I make Italian Rice Pie?
- Cook the rice with milk, cream, orange peels and whole vanilla bean, then cool.
- Bake the crust made from crushed graham crackers, brown sugar, butter and salt.
- Beat eggs with more cream, sugar, ricotta, orange juice and zest, cinnamon and nutmeg to form the custard.
- Remove vanilla bean and orange peels from the cooked rice, then add the cooled rice to bowl with custard.
- Pour filling into crust and bake in a water bath until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool or serve warm cut into eight or ten portions and serve with optional whipped cream.
Chef’s Tip – A water bath helps the pie cook evenly in the oven. Additionally, the extra moisture from the water prevents the top of the pie from drying out as it bakes.
Frequently asked Questions
Can I make Italian Rice Pie ahead of time? Yes, this can be made ahead and served chilled when ready.
How do I store leftovers? Store covered and refrigerated for up to four days.
You may enjoy these other Italian desserts:
1 cup Arborio rice, not rinsed
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream, divided
Peels from half a large orange
1 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 sleeve of graham crackers (9 whole crackers)
1/4 cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons melted butter
5 whole eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 pound (16 ounces) whole milk ricotta cheese (not drained)
1 teaspoon orange juice
Zest from half an orange
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Few grinds fresh nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place unrinsed arborio rice in a large nonstick saucepan along with the whole milk, one cup of the heavy cream and orange peels.
Split the vanilla bean pod and scrape the seeds into the pan along with the pod.
Bring to a simmer then turn heat to medium low and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Pick out and discard the orange peels and vanilla bean and pour the cooked rice (and any liquid) onto a platter or pan and refrigerate to chill.
While rice is cooking, place graham crackers in food processor and process to a crumb. Add brown sugar, salt and butter and process.
Scrape out and press into the bottom of a 9” springform pan and bake for five minutes. Remove and set aside.
While the cooked rice is cooling, in a large bowl, beat eggs then add sugar, ricotta, ½ cup of heavy cream, orange juice, orange zest, cinnamon and nutmeg and beat again.
Bring a teapot full of water to a boil.
Once the rice has cooled, (warm is OK, just not hot), add to the large bowl and beat.
Scrape this into the prepared springform pan.
Wrap the bottom and sides of the spring form pan in one piece of foil to avoid water leaking in from the water bath.
Place the foil lined spring form pan into a large shallow oven proof pan and set in the oven on a center rack.
Take the tea pot and pour the boiling water between the foil lined springform pan and the outer pan about half way up the sides.
Place in the oven and bake for about one hour and 20 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. You could also give the pan a wiggle and see that the center is solid and not wet. Try not to overbake.
Cool and run a sharp knife around the pie to release it from the pan before you release the springform handle. Can also be served warm.
Slip the ring off and cut the pie into eight or ten wedges.
Whip the remaining half cup of heavy cream and serve over each portion. Or simple dust with powdered sugar.
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