Lemon, pine nut and ricotta cake

Photo: by Silvia Zanone (courtesy Melbourne Books)

Inspired by memories of his mum’s homemade ricotta, this cake from Mister Bianco chef Joseph Vargetto is light and airy enough to have with a morning coffee, or you can pair it with fruit compote and mascarpone to push it into dessert territory. It comes from Vargetto’s debut cookbook, Siciliano, which shows the many influences on his growth as a chef, from his Italian upbringing in suburban Melbourne to working under Gualtiero Marchesi in Italy and, closer to home, Guy Grossi and Philippe Mouchel.

“Mum used to make ricotta sometimes because it was really hard to find when I was a child,” says Joseph Vargetto. "We had to travel to Sunbury to buy it. Sometimes she made her own with warm milk and sap from the fig tree. The sap would curdle the milk and whatever came to the top she’d scoop off to make ricotta. Sometimes she’d make salted ricotta, other times she used it for sweet things, like this cake.”


Serves 8


6 lemons

65g plain flour

150g pine nuts

225g unsalted butter

250g caster sugar

6 eggs, separated

300g fresh ricotta


1. Preheat oven to 180°C.

2. Butter a 25cm round or bundt tin and line with greased baking paper.

3. Finely grate the lemon zest and juice all 6 lemons. Combine the flour, pine nuts and lemon zest. Beat the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until pale and light, then add the egg yolks, one by one. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture.

4. Place the ricotta in a bowl and lightly beat with a fork. Add the lemon juice.

5. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture and, finally, stir the ricotta mixture in.

6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in oven for 35-40 minutes. The cake is cooked when a skewer is inserted and comes out clean. Remove the cake from the tin while warm and leave to cool on a cake rack.

This is an edited extract from Siciliano by Joseph Vargetto, published by Melbourne Books (RRP $49.95). Available from 24 November from good booksellers, online and in-store.