Zuppa alle Fragole

Trifle Pudding with Ricotta and Strawberries

This pudding, layered in a bowl like Zuppa Inglese, was inspired by a delicious little tart filled with ricotta cream and covered with wild strawberries from the Pasticceria Spinelli, in Catania. This version, which combines syrup and pan di spagna, concentrates the flavors so well that the substitution of cultivated strawberries for wild ones is less noticeable.

Like all zuppe, this dessert has the virtue of total advance preparation. Prepare it the day before, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until serving time, adding the strawberry decoration a few hours before serving.

Ingredients

    Syrup

  • cup sugar
  • cup water
  • ¼ cup white rum
  • ¼ cup orange juice, strained
  • 3 pints strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced

    Ricotta Cream Filling

  • 2 pounds whole-milk ricotta, commercial or homemade
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Method

For the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cool and stir in the rum and orange juice.

Place two-thirds of the sliced strawberries in a bowl and pour the syrup over them. Let them sit for several hours at room temperature to macerate. Keep the remaining berries covered in the refrigerator until ready to decorate the dessert.

For the ricotta cream filling, combine all the filling ingredients in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process about 30 seconds. Scrape down the work bowl and process again, until smooth.

To assemble the zuppa, drain the strawberries and reserve the syrup. Cut the pan di spagna into vertical slices about ¼ inch thick and place one-fifth of the slices in the bottom of a 2-to 2½-quart glass serving bowl. Moisten with one-fifth of the syrup and spread with one-fourth of the ricotta cream filling. Strew with one-fourth of the strawberries. Continue layering the cake, syrup, filling, and berries, ending with a layer of the cake and the last of the syrup. If you are preparing the dessert the day before or more than 3 or 4 hours in advance, cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

To finish the dessert, arrange the reserved sliced strawberries in a decorative pattern on the top layer of cake: start closest to the edge of the bowl and make a row of the slices, points radiating outward. Make a concentric row inside the first with the points of the berries overlapping the first row to prevent the top layer of cake from showing through. Continue until the top of the dessert is covered. Wrap loosely in plastic wrap, so as not to disturb the pattern of the berry slices, and refrigerate until serving time. Store leftovers tightly covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator.

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