Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars
These beautiful Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars may be my new favorite dessert. Since creating this recipe around Thanksgiving last month, I’ve made them three times!!!!
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.
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:
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!
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].
Graham Cracker Crumbs
Amarena Cherry Ricotta Bars
For the graham cracker crust:
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- 1 Tbsp almond milk
- 1 Tbsp sugar
For the filling:
- 425 grams ricotta, (about 2 cups)
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp vanilla paste, (or additional tsp vanilla extract)
- 2 tsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 tsp lime zest, freshly grated
- 1 egg
- ½ cup almond milk
- ¾ cup flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 15-25 Amarena cherries, cut in halves (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.
Bake the crust
- Press the crust into the bottom of an oiled 8x8 inch glass baking dish.
- Bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees.
- Remove from the oven, and let cool for 5 minutes.
Add the cherries
- After the crust has cooled for 5 minutes, arrange your 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 to large mixing bowl, mix together the ricotta, sugar, vanilla, vanilla paste, lime juice, and zest until combined.
- Add the egg and almond milk. Mix until incorporated.
- Now add all the dry ingredients, and mix again.
Compile the bars
- Pour the filling over the crust and cherries. Try not to displace the cherries, but don’t worry too much—they will stay pretty stationary on their own.
Swirl the syrup
- If using, put the reserved syrup over 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 50-55 min. The bars are done when the middle is set, but there's still a little bit of jiggle.
- The edges of the bars will be darker, while the middle will be golden on top.
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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