Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars

Inspired by a recent trip to Florence, Italy, my Amarena Cherry Ricotta bars are deliciously moist with a graham cracker crust, and studded with gorgeous amarena cherries!

These beautiful Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars may be my new favorite dessert. 

They are deliciously moist and completely addicting, quite reminiscent of cheesecake, but much, much easier to make, and with more of a cakey texture.

These bars were inspired by our trip to Italy last year.  While in Florence, we did an amazing four hour walking tour of the city.

Andrew and me in front of the beautiful Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence last summer. Unfortunately, you can barely see the Ponte Vecchio behind us!

A Travel Tangent!

Quick tangent: If you’re looking for good walking tours of Europe, I highly recommend Context Travel Private Tours.  Context Tour guides are always locals, and passionate about their city.  Guides are usually professors and always certified.  Even better, tour groups are never more than six people.  So rather than looking like a tourist in a huge group listening to a guide on a microphone (effectively making yourself pickpocket target GOLD), you appear to be a small group of friends walking around the city. 

I’ve taken Context Tours in Florence, Rome, Paris, and Prague—several tours in each city with a different guide each time—and I am always beyond impressed! Visit the Context Travel website and select the continent and city you are traveling to, then select the tour that sounds most interesting.  I am sure you won’t be disappointed!

Back to My Story!

Ok, thanks!  Back to the inspiration behind these bars!

So on our tour of Florence, our amazing guide took us to her favorite café for a short break.  Of course, you can’t go to a café in Italy without buying a pastry. 

Everything looked amazing, but I finally selected a beautiful slice of cake that was studded with what looked like rubies.

The cake was so amazing that Andrew and I stopped back at the café at the end of the day, and we bought all three remaining slices.  I soon learned that these rubies studding the cake were Amarena cherries.

My Amarena Cherry Obsession!

These dark red cherries literally look like rubies.  There is truly no equivilant to them in the US.  And no, they are not at all like maraschino cherries.  The flavor of Amarena cherries is rich, deep, and elegant.  You really just have to experience them!

I bought a jar of Amarena cherries at the COOP next to our Airbnb in Romito Magra, with the intention of re-creating that wonderful cake with them when I got home.

I successfully got the jar of Amarena cherries back home. 

I did not successfully make the cake. 

Because I ate the whole jar of cherries. Plain.

You can imagine how excited I was to see that Trader Joe’s carries Amarena cherries during the holiday season!  I bought a jar last month, this time with the discipline to recreate that fabulous cake with my own twist, and not just eat the cherries.  The result was these delicious bars! 

Whenever I take a bite of one of these Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars, I am transported back to last summer, and the beautiful time we had in Florence.

Here’s to hoping it won’t be long before we visit that beautiful city again!  Until then, these bars will be a delicious substitute.

Be Sure to Have These Ingredients:

My favorite brand of Amarena cherries is Fabbri. This is the brand that I bought in Italy that was so irresistible! Click to view on Amazon! [aff. link]

Amarena Cherries

Since Amarena Cherries [aff. link] seem to be a holiday item in the US, I thought this was the best time to post the recipe for these bars!  Like any canned good, they don’t expire for years, so you really could buy a whole bunch of Amarena cherries at Trader Joe’s, then use them throughout the year. That’s totally what I’m doing.

If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, or yours doesn’t carry them, you can find Amarena cherries here on Amazon [aff. link.]  This is the brand I loved in Italy!  Unless you’re like me and have no discipline, a jar of Amarena cherries will last you a long time!

My favorite vanilla bean paste! Try it in this recipe, and substitute it for vanilla extract in your favorite baked goods! Click the photo to view or purchase my favorite on Amazon [aff. link].

Vanilla Bean Paste

Vanilla Bean Paste [aff. link] is just extra vanilla-y.  It’s like taking the seeds out of the pod, but much more time effective and cost effective, because you don’t have to take the vanilla beans out of the pod–it’s already a paste!  You get much more for your money with this jar.  You can sub an additional tsp of vanilla extract if you don’t have Vanilla Bean Paste, but it’s so affordable and makes such a difference, you should just head on over to Amazon and purchase my favorite brand here [aff. link].

My favorite graham cracker crumbs! Can't beat this deal, and I love that they come tightly sealed in this canister that continues to keep the crumbs fresh after opening. Click the photo to view or purchase on Amazon [aff. link]

Graham Cracker Crumbs

Graham Cracker Crumbs [aff. link] are definitely a necessary ingredient for the graham cracker crust on these bars.  Here is my favorite brand  on Amazon! [aff. link]  So much more affordable than buying the little boxes at the grocery store.

5 from 2 votes

Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars

These beautiful bars are deliciously moist! The graham cracker crust sets them apart, while the show stopping ingredient is the ruby red, absolutely gorgeous, Italian Amarena cherries. These bars are perfect for the holidays, or any time of year!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time55 mins
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Servings: 10
Print Recipe


For the graham cracker crust:

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp sugar

For the filling:

  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste, (or additional tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 tsp lime zest, freshly grated
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 15-25 Amarena cherries, cut in halves or in thirds (use more or less according to preference!)
  • 1-2 Tbsp Amarena cherry syrup, from the jar, optional


Make the crust

  • To the bowl of a food processor, add the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, almond milk, and sugar. Pulse until everything comes together, and the graham cracker crumbs are fine, but not a powder.
  • Press the crust into the bottom of an oiled 8x8 inch glass baking dish.

Add the cherries

  • Arrange your sliced Amarena cherries on top of the crust.
  • I like to get as many cherries in these bars as possible, so I arrange the cherries in rows as close together as I can! Set aside.

Make the filling

  • In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the ricotta, sugar, vanilla, vanilla paste, lime juice, and zest.
  • Next, add the egg and milk. Whisk until incorporated.
  • Now add the flour, salt, and basing soda, and whisk until everything is smooth and incorporated.

Compile the bars

  • Pour the filling evenly over the crust and cherries. Try not to displace the cherries, but don’t worry too much—the cherries will stay pretty stationary on their own.

Swirl the syrup

  • If using, sprinkle the reserved syrup over the top of the batter in a random drizzle. Now take a butter knife and swirl the syrup into the batter. Don’t cut your knife in too deeply—you don’t want to touch the cherries or the crust! Stay pretty close to the top.

Bake the bars

  • Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, until the top is browing and the middle is mostly set. There will still be a little bit of jiggle.

Cool the bars

  • Like cheesecake, these bars won’t acquire their final texture and taste until they have had a chance to cool fully.
  • Wait at least a half hour before cutting into the bars. I recommend waiting longer than that, if you can! An hour or two is ideal.

Serve and enjoy!

  • Serve these bars as both a holiday and a year round treat!
  • Store these Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars in the refrigerator, tightly sealed.



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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. David @ Spiced

    5 stars
    I love recipes that are inspired by travels! (I also happen to love…LOVE…Italy, too.) These bars sound delicious, and I did hear that Trader Joe’s carries Amarena cherries. I didn’t realize that it was a holiday item, though, so that means I need to get myself down to Trader Joe’s before the holidays are over. This sounds like the perfect dessert for the holidays! (Also, thanks for the walking tour tip. Filing that away for the next vacation!)

    1. Shannon

      Isn’t Italy the BEST?!!! Some of the very best food in the world, no doubt! Oh for sure, stock up on those Amarena cherries! I can’t get enough haha. Thank you so much for your kind comment Dave!

  2. Neil

    5 stars
    As soon as you mentioned “reminiscent of cheesecake” at the start of this post Shannon I knew I had to add these bars to my “must make” recipe list. They look so delicious! I was a student when I was back-packing round Europe and visited Florence so many years ago. I hope to visit there again one day, with more money so that I can actually experience the pastries. All we could do as penniless students was look into the bakery windows and drool! Ha ha!

    1. Shannon

      Awww thank you so much Neal!!! Haha oh I totally know what you mean! How amazing would it be to visit Florence with an unlimited budget for pastries?!!! Back-packing through Europe sounds amazing too! I’ve never backpacked, but my first experience traveling through Europe was staying at cheap student hostels in various cities, and I can totally relate to seeing all those amazing pastries and wishing I could eat them all!

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I’m Shannon, thanks for visiting!  When I’m not on an adventure with my little girl, I’m developing plant-based recipes or watching a Classic Film!

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