An Italian Grandma’s Cheesecake Recipe: The Recipe's Story Involves a Priest (and Is Almost As Good As the Cheesecake!) by Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead
As a kid in a large Italian family, I was spoiled, eating meals made from scratch and being exposed to a variety of different foods and flavors. My mom and aunts all had their specialties and if they didn’t have a recipe they loved, they either went looking for one or created it themselves.
Over the years my mom tried several cheesecake recipes and felt she never got it quite right – until “Father Ted” came along. I was a kid at the time and only recently learned this story:
My mom’s friend Jerri attended a church with a priest named Father Ted, who was known for making “the best cheesecake anyone had ever tasted.” He’d bring the cheesecake to church events and it was always a hit. It became so famous locally that Father Ted began selling the cheesecakes and then donating the money to local parishes. For the priest this was a labor of love; he could demonstrate his love for his community by baking his cakes and make a difference at the same time. Father Ted’s thoughtfulness didn’t end there, though – he printed out copies of his recipe and shared them with the members of the church community. The parishioners saw the recipe as a special gift, not only because they loved the dessert but also because they loved and appreciated the baker who made it. Father Ted’s recipe lives on. I like to think of it as a part of his legacy, the way we think of family recipes as legacies.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, Jerri shared the recipe with my mom. She made it and agreed with everyone else; it was “the best cheesecake she’d ever tasted.” I’d like to share it with you, with the hope that you’ll bake it with love and share it with your family, your community.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 to 60 minutes
Total Time: 65 to 75 minutes
Servings: Makes 1 cheesecake
- 4 full sheets graham crackers (about 1/2 cup crumbs)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 20 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
Here's how to make it:
- Grind the graham crackers and sugar into fine crumbs. Rub the butter over the inside of an 8-inch springform pan. Pour in sugar/crumb mixture. Shake pan until bottom and sides are well coated. Refrigerate pan until needed.
- Cut cream cheese into small pieces and blend (beat) together until smooth (to make this easier you may soften the butter slightly in the microwave). Add butter and sugar. Beat until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Blend together, making a smooth mixture. Transfer mixture into prepared pan.
- Bake in a preheated 350-degree F oven for 40 to 50 minutes until edge is puffed and top of cheesecake begins to turn lightly golden.
- Remove pan from oven and cool for approximately 10 minutes while you prepare the topping. Note that the center of the cake may appear insufficiently cooked and “jiggle” slightly when it’s moved and/or may “collapse” slightly in pan. Do not turn off the oven.
- Blend sour cream and sugar. Spread over cheesecake. Return cheesecake to oven for 10 minutes. Then remove and let it stand for 10 more minutes. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours. Top with fresh fruit or your favorite fruit topping.
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