Torta della Nonna or Grandmother’s cake is a traditional Tuscan dessert made with ricotta cheese and is quite similar to a baked custard tart. I tasted this cake for the first time while in Italy and I was determined to figure out how to make it when I came home. The use of ricotta cheese means that it is quite a heavy dessert (not, perhaps, for after a roast dinner) and it is also not too sweet due to the addition of pine nuts and almonds (pine nuts always have a savory connotation to me!). The following recipe is not a traditional torta but one that I made to suit my own taste and capabilities. It is also loosely based on a Mario Batali recipe but I have left out the pastry top as less is more where pastry is concerned I feel!
For the pastry:
250g plain flour
25g icing sugar
150g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
2 egg yolks
Zest of 1 orange
Dash of vanilla essence
Pinch of salt
For the ricotta filling:
100g caster sugar
Juice and zest of 1 orange
100g pine nuts
3 eggs, beaten
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
For the pastry, put the flour, icing sugar, orange zest, vanilla essence and butter into a processor and pulse until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of cold water and pulse again until the pastry comes together. Turn out onto a sheet of cling film and just gently gather the pastry together to make a flat enough disc of pastry. Wrap this up in the cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.
After the pastry has been chilled for 30 minutes, take it out of the fridge and roll out to fit the springform tart tin (I used a 25 cm tart tin). I usually roll out the pastry between two sheets of cling film as this means that there is less of a clean-up afterwards! Place the pastry in the tin, making sure you get it into all the dips and curves of the tin. Pierce the base of the pastry all over with a fork and place the pastry tin in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill
Bake blind for 15 minutes and then remove the greaseproof paper and baking beans/rice and place in the oven for a further 5 minutes or so.
For the filling beat together the ricotta, sugar, orange juice and zest, pine nuts and eggs. Pour this mixture into the pastry case and place in the oven for 35 minutes at 190 degrees celsius.
Top with pine nuts and flaked almonds and sprinkle with icing sugar.
Serve at room temperature.