Nonna Genia’s Torta di Pasta Frolla
With the autumn weather in Melbourne getting cooler and a little drizzly, I’ve been craving something sweet lately. Something innocent to nibble together with a cup of tea or a little espresso.
I found the perfect thing while thumbing through one of the most treasured cookbooks I have on my bookshelf, Nonna Genia. The classic cookbook of the rolling hills of the Langhe area of Piemonte is full of the centuries old recipes collected by Luciano De Giacomi and dedicated to his grandmother, Genia. The wonderful hazelnut cake recipe I made a few months ago is one of the many traditional treasures in this book.
It’s not only a recipe book but also an account of a unique traditional food culture with inspiring essays by Beppe Lodi on the relationship between mind and food, full of inspiring words like “hunger is a physiological necessity; taste is a cultural necessity.”
This recipe is one that De Giacomi recalls having as a child at his Nonna Genia’s every Sunday lunch, a recipe that even Nonna Genia’s mother would prepare for her as a child. It’s a little like a jam crostata but instead of a lattice top, it has a closed top covered in sweetened ground almonds. Like with a crostata, the quality of the jam is really what makes it special – homemade is the best, but if you don’t have one on hand, go for a delicious jam that you’d voluntarily eat by the spoonful, straight out of the jar. Here I’ve used the incredible sour cherry jam from the Alpine Berry Farm, a couple of hours from my hometown of Canberra in the beautiful Southern Highlands.
De Giacomi notes that it’s a recipe that can be made all year round by scraping together things from the pantry.
Torta di Pasta Frolla
Note: The ingredients and measurements below are from the original Nonna Genia recipe, but I found I needed to alter the recipe by adding double the amount of jam (200 grams) and a third of the amount of almonds (about 30 grams).
• 300 gr flour
• 200 gr butter, chopped
• 200 gr sugar
• 1 egg, plus 1 egg white
• 100 gr of jam (traditionally either cherry or apricot and preferably homemade)
• 100 gr of blanched almonds
Make a dough by processing the flour, butter and sugar together (if you are doing it by hand, rub the cold butter into the flour and sugar) until it looks like breadcrumbs. Then add the egg and mix together to form a dough. If needed, a tablespoon or so of cold water can help bring the dough together. Let rest then divide into two parts and roll out to no more than 1cm high and roughly to the size of the tart case.
In the meantime, grind the blanched almonds in a mortar and pestle (or food processor) until fine. Add some sugar to sweeten a little.
Place one of the sheets of pastry into a tart case with a removable base, fill with a layer of jam, then cover with the second layer of dough, rolling the edge of the lower layer over the top. Brush a lightly beaten egg white over the top layer of dough and spread the almond mixture on top.
Bake in a moderate oven (180ºC) until golden brown.