Sunday, 18 May 2008

Torta Della Nonna

This classic recipe is a regular sight in Italian cafes and pasticcerie. The sweet pastry is filled with a rich ricotta custard which bakes to a firm yet smooth texture. Italians would probably eat such a tart with an afternoon coffee rather than as a dessert. I think it works equally well as either.


For the pastry:
500g of flour
5 egg yolks
300g of butter
200g of icing sugar.

For the ricotta cream:
300g of ricotta
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla essence (or real vanilla)
half a litre of milk (room temperature, not straight from the fridge)
60g plain white flour
150g caster sugar
pine-nuts to decorate.


Prepare the pastry by mixing all the ingredients carefully and leave this mixture in the fridge for a while. For more info on the pastry making, refer to the similar pastry in this pear and almond tart recipe. Keep at least 1 egg white safe as you'll need if for the egg wash.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Now prepare the custard. Mix the egg yolks in a mixing bowl with the sugar and vanilla flavouring. Slowly add the flour, stirring continuously. Slowly stir in the warm milk and mix thoroughly. Put the mixture in a pan on a low heat and continuously stir the custard as it comes up to the boil. Once it has boiled for 3 minutes, remove from the heat and stir in the ricotta.

Take the pastry mix out of the fridge. Roll out just over half of the pastry mix with a rolling pin until thin. Form the pastry into a 'bowl-like shape' inside a round 28cm flan case. If pastry rolling isn't your thing, try the grating method also in the pear and almond tart recipe.

Prick the pastry base a couple of times, fill with ceramic baking beads and blind bake it for 20 mins or until it just starts to brown. Remove the base from the oven and allow to cool. Reduce the over temperature to 160.

Roll the remaining pastry 4-5mm thick and from it cut a 30cm round. Pour the ricotta custard mix into the cooked pastry base and top with the pastry round. Seal the tart by pressing the pastry together round the edges. Brush the top of the pastry with some reserved egg white and sprinkle with pine nuts. Bake at 160 for 30 to 40 minutes in fan oven or 1 hour in a conventional oven. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve warm.

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