No springform pan needed for this easy, decadent dessert.
Let’s be brutally honest: Making a whole cheesecake from scratch is a real pain. You’ve got to get your ingredients and cook time perfectly correct — otherwise, the cheesecake may form cracks and become an overcooked, crumbly mess. Or if you use too many eggs you’ll end up with a disappointingly ugly canyon on the surface of the cake. And sometimes, the darn thing doesn’t set at all.
The best solution? Craft easier, neater mini cheesecakes that require less equipment and mostly come together in the fridge. These have the added bonus of being easier to sell at a bake sale or pack for a picnic. And fortunately for us, Ina Garten has the perfect recipe for limoncello ricotta cheesecake bars.
These bars come together very easily because you’ll bake a simple, classic graham cracker crust first. (For many, that’s the kind of baking work you can do in your sleep.) Then, you’ll make the luscious ricotta filling and bake everything together for just an hour. After the cheesecake has set (it will remain a little jiggly), you’ll let the bars finish up in the fridge overnight. Since most of the cooking time is spent chilling, you can also chill. (We recommend a little at-home spa session for all of your hard work.)
If you’re still feeling trepidatious (there’s a decent chance you have a homemade cheesecake nightmare in your past), just take it from these reviewers. One gushes that “the texture is so light and smooth. Like a cloud of cheesecake!” Another says that the bars are “easy and simply delicious,” adding, “It’s my second time making it — it’s in the oven right now.”
And if you’re a little nervous about integrating ricotta cheese into a cheesecake (not exactly the most intuitive move), one reviewer says, “I’ve never made a cheesecake with ricotta before. I was pleasantly surprised.”
Ina Garten’s Mini Cheesecake Bars Recipe
For the crust
Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (15 crackers)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling
16 ounces cream cheese, such as Philadelphia, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese (12 ounces), homemade or store-bought
1/2 cup Italian limoncello, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus extra for serving (2 lemons)
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Spray a 9 x13 x 2-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
For the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a medium bowl and mix until moistened. Press the mixture evenly in the prepared pan and 1/4 inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes and set aside to cool.
For the filling, place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the ricotta and beat for another minute, scraping down the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the limoncello, vanilla, and lemon zest and beat for one minute. With the mixer on medium-low, add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and mix until the batter is smooth. Pour over the crust.
Place the baking pan in a roasting pan large enough to hold the baking pan completely flat. Place the pan in the oven and carefully pour enough of the hottest tap water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking pan. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until almost set in the center. (It will still be a little jiggly when you shake the pan gently.) Turn off the heat and leave the cheesecake in the oven in the water bath for 15 minutes to prevent the cheesecake from cracking. Take the baking pan out of the water bath and place on a rack to cool completely. Wrap the entire pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. Sprinkle with extra grated lemon zest, cut in 12 pieces, and serve cold.