While in Italy, we passed many bakeries but we were often unable to stop because we were trying to keep 40+ people together during the tour! Anyway, I frequently saw Torta della Nonna – Grandmother’s Cake – in the window of these bakeries and it looked so incredibly delicious that I just had to make it! My mom and sister came for dinner on Saturday evening and their visit offered the perfect opportunity to bake this creamy little treat.
I checked my Giada, Lydia, Carmines and Italian Summer cookbooks, but to no avail (what gives girls?) so I searched the Internet and Mario Batali came through!
Torta della Nonna
2 cups allpurpose flour
1 egg pus 2 yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons sweet butter and 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil melted together
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh ricotta (sheep's milk is best)
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 375°.
To make the pastry, make a well of the flour, place egg, yolks, sugar, butter and olive oil mixture in center and proceed as you would with fresh pasta, i.e. bring flour in bit by bit until liquid in well is thick enough to bring together with hands. Knead until dough is smooth and then allow to rest 10 minutes. I was running short on time so I used pre-made pie crusts from Immaculate Baking Company.
Meanwhile, make the filling by mixing together the ricotta, pine nuts, sugar
Add lemon zest, juice and eggs in a bowl until creamy.
To assemble, roll out the pastry to form two 12 inch circles. Place one circle down to line the bottom and sides of the pan. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over this layer. Place the remaining circle of dough over the top and pinch together the edges.
Place in oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove and serve warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle some pine nuts on top for a nice presentation! Some other versions of this recipe do not call for a top crust….next time I’ll try it that way.
While this was baking the house smelled absolutely heavenly. The nuttiness of the pine nuts (pinoli in Italian and they are really seeds but that’s a detail) blend so nicely with the creaminess of the ricotta and the zestiness of the lemon. So melt-in-your-mouth good, not too sweet and perfect with an espresso or spot of tea!
Tip: Pine nuts go rancid easily so to preserve them, put them in the freezer.