It was 1975 at the Turnpike Bowladrome in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The alley was bustling with chatter, crashing pins, and rumbling bowling balls. The social club was in competition season, assigning random members to new leagues. Stephen, an Italian guy from East Boston was selected to play on a new team with Linda, an Irish Catholic girl from Somerville. Through a sea of socialites and the haze of cigarette smoke, two strangers, named Stephen and Linda met for the first time and became teammates.
For years, Stephen and Linda bowled together, spending nights and weekends competing, laughing, and building their friendship. One day however, Stephen had a change of heart and asked Linda out on a date.
Stephen and Linda married shortly thereafter. Linda, who was never much for baking, was suddenly immersed in her husband’s Italian world, Mammas and Aunties, all traditional home bakers. They created the most divine confections, cookies, and pies. Among all of their gourmet creations, Stephen’s favorite was his Grandma Cantalupo’s Ricotta Pie, pronounced “Rrrreegotta” Pie.
As Linda and Stephen’s family grew, Linda took interest in baking more and more. She learned quickly, always willing to try old recipes passed down by her Italian in-laws. Soon enough, Linda was baking and entertaining at family gatherings as if she was an Italian Mamma herself. For Holidays and family events, Linda baked desserts galore, everything that Stephen adored. But, among all her husband’s childhood favorites, there was one that she was too intimidated to tackle. It was Grandma’s perfect pie. Instead, every Thanksgiving and Christmas, Linda headed over to Spinelli’s Italian bakery to buy it.
Over the next thirty years, Stephen and Linda remained loving teammates, raising two boys, and hosting parties for family and friends. In 2008, the love and laughter took a pause, however, when Stephen suddenly fell ill and passed away.
Since Stephen’s passing, Linda has gained two grandchildren, now two and three years old. Much like their late grandfather, they adore their Nana, and can’t get enough of her Italian desserts. Perhaps Linda’s inspiration came from having her two grandchildren home for the Holidays. Or, maybe she was encouraged by the mischievous twinkle of Stephen in their eyes. Thirty-nine years after Linda’s introduction to Italian baking, on Christmas 2016, she decided it was time to conquer the Ricotta pie.
Together, they cracked the eggs and whisked the vanilla into the sugar. As they whisked, they were delighted by the scrumptious scent of the ingredients. Once the batter was a smooth pale yellow, they added the creamy Ricotta cheese, laughing and making a mess along the way. As the pie baked in the oven, Linda’s grandchildren giggled and played, running back and forth to the kitchen while the batter took shape. Over and over again between the giggles, the children hastily asked, “NANA! Can we taste it yet?”
A few hours later, the Ricotta Pie had baked and cooled, the sweet aroma of vanilla filled the house. It was a perfect yellow color, a hint of crispy brown around the edges. And with a sprinkle of powered sugar on top, it was ready to serve. At a table full of family, friends, and Ricotta pie connoisseurs, Linda’s pie received rave reviews. Sweet and creamy, the texture of cheesecake, combined with the mild flavor of vanilla custard, the pie was flawless, one to rival that of Grandma Cantalupo, and make Stephen proud.
Here’s to Linda’s eternal teammate Stephen, who lives on in our hearts and our children. Here’s to traditions, memories, and Ricotta Pie as well: to always honoring the old and finding the courage to create the new. “Felice anno nuovo e buon appetito,” as Stephen would say. We hope you enjoy the recipe.