OK WELL THE FOOD TOURS HAVEN'T STARTED YET but tickets are available as of january 2016! So in the meantime I thought I would share favorite Italian recipes from living in Italy for 14 years. This is my easy go-to dessert when in a pinch and I want fresh and delicious, light and Italian. I first indulged in this most delicious warm out of the oven sensation when we lived in Rome. The restaurant was next to a sheep farm so of course this was made of ricotta di pecora (sheep ricotta). In the stores you have the option of sheep, goat or cow ricotta and it's usually 1 or 2 days fresh since it has a short life. If you can get your hands on the fresh stuff do it as the texture is like soft curds melting in your mouth without the graininess in commercial brands. So when I asked the chef what was in this most delicate cake I didn't believe him when he said it was only ricotta and sugar! 2 ingredients! there was a cookie like crust (pasta frolla) I think. So I went to my kitchen and made this over and over trying to duplicate this most simple of cakes. I thought for sure there were eggs but no- it's much better without eggs! I didn't trust the chef's answer since I know that often in Italy they leave out vital ingredients so your version won't be as good as the original. It's True! so here you go and just know that with fresh ricotta it will be better and you can even make your own which is easy! All you do is boil milk, add lemon juice to make it curdle (about 1 lemon's juice for half gallon) strain it, disposing the liquid and the remaining curds are Ricotta!

Ricotta Cake: Torta di Ricotta (lemon zest or vanilla)

Make it vanilla or lemon- You Choose!

2 1/2 cups butter cookie crumbs (about 1 1/2 [7.25-oz.] packages) or butter cookies to lay in muffin tin

1/3 cup melted butter

Stir together all ingredients; firmly press crumb mixture on bottom, up sides, and onto lip of a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate.

Ricotta Filling: 1 pound ricotta - I 15 oz container of Whole Foods ricotta- drained of water – may have to drain in colander 2 hours if really fresh 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 tbsp fresh lemon zest

Place the ricotta in a large bowl stir in the sugar, add the vanilla being careful not to over mix. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pour the ricotta filling into the crust base. Place the torta in the lower third of the oven and bake for about 45 minutes until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

For the muffin cakes put a cookie at the bottom of each and fill with the batter. Bake for 30 minutes or until firm on top

It’s delicious and pretty garnished with fresh raspberries or blueberries and a dusting of powdered sugar