This Italian Mascarpone cheesecake is a scrumptious but lighter version of the classic American cheesecake. For the crust I use a mix of Amaretti cookies and regular graham crackers crumbs, while the filling is made combining mascarpone cheese and regular cream cheese with lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Add your favorite topping like strawberries, chocolate, fruit sauce, etc. and enjoy a little slice of heaven.
Ingredients and Instructions:
1 and 1/2 cups of Italian Amaretti cookies*
3/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs**
5 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter
*(Amaretti cookies are an Italian almond flavored type of cookies, found in most countries. If not available, use any crunchy vanilla cookies instead)
**(Graham crackers are peculiar to the U.S., and are also called Digestive Biscuits in England and Australia; if none of these are available in your area, try using any crunchy cookies)
8 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 pound of Mascarpone cheese***, at room temperature
3/4 cup of sugar
3 large eggs
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
The zest of 1 lemon
***(If Italian Mascarpone a much lighter and sweeter version of cream cheese is hard to find, substitute with 2 cups of cream cheese beaten with 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream)
1 pound of fresh strawberries
4 tablespoons of sugar
The juice of 1/2 lemon
Prepare the crust:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slightly coat with butter the bottom and only the bottom of a 9-inch diameter spring form pan (I personally prefer this old time method to nonstick cooking spray for cakes). Wrap the outside of the pan tightly with 2 layers of aluminum foil.
2. Place the Amaretti cookies in a large resealable bag (you may use any plastic bag, but make sure it is clean and tightly close at the end). Cover the bag with a kitchen towel and crush with a rolling pin (or an empty bottle) until the cookies are coarsely ground. In a bowl, mix together the Graham cracker crumbs and the crushed Amaretti cookie with the melted butter.
3. Press the mixture into the bottom and only the bottom of the prepared spring form pan. Bake for about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before adding the cheesecake filling.
4. Meanwhile, reduce the temperature of the oven to 325 degrees F.
Prepare the filling:
1. Whether you use just a regular mixing bowl and wooden spoon or a food processor, combine the 2 cheeses with the sugar until completely blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure to completely incorporate each egg before adding the next one. Add the vanilla extract and the juice and the zest of the lemon, blending well together.
2. Pour the filling into the prepared pan with the Amaretti crust. Place the spring form pan into a big roasting pan, then add to it enough hot water to submerge the sides of the spring form pan halfway up. Bake for about 1 hour, and dont worry if the center of the cake is still slightly soft and moves when removing the pan; it will get firm after cooling off.
3. Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven, take out the cheesecake pan from the water, and let cool completely (about one hour) before transferring to the refrigerator, for at least 4 hours.
Finally, the topping:
1. Wash the strawberries, remove the green leafs and slice them, fairly thin. Mix with the sugar and the lemon juice, then set aside to rest. Prepare this type of topping at least one hour ahead, so that the strawberries have time to marinate with sugar and lemon, producing a wonderful natural juice.
2. When ready, cut the cheesecake and serve, topping each wedge with a spoonful of strawberries and their juice.
For this recipe, I recommend the original Italian Amaretti cookies: