2 Ricotta Tarts!

My Christmas was characterised by food! Lots of it. I know that this is fairly normal, but in the south of Italy, everything has its place – traditions are very important!. Christmas Eve is the BIG feast here where the majority of the food is seafood based. I was invited to have dinner at the Rinaldi household, friends of the owners of the Caseificio where I was learning to make mozzarella. The nonna (grandmother) had been cooking and preparing days before, and i knew that I was in for a feast when I met the family.

Insalata Frutti di Mare
Insalata Frutti di Mare

The wine flowed, and so did the courses and various platters: the highlight was a huge platter of Insalata di Frutti di Mare – octopus, squid, sepia and mussels.

Nonna then decided to break out the broccoli and salsiccia, but by that time not even Marco’s brother in law, who has a stomach the size of me, was able to fit any more in.

Out came the grappa and sweets, and we sat around the table chatting about the “crisis”, and how difficult life is now in Italy, as the two kids sat there playing with there brand new tablets which father Christmas had just brought them (sorry for the diversion from topic but….nuff said!).

So…this post in reality has little to do with Christmas and more to do with Ricotta…in fact 2 incredibly delicious tarts that I had the privilege of sampling: Pear and Ricotta tart, and Pastiere di grano.

Fresh Buffalo Ricotta
Fresh Buffalo Ricotta

The recipes here calls for buffalo ricotta, because i was in the land of buffalo, but if you can’t get your hands on it (and i understand that basically means anywhere outside the south of Italy), then go for the best ricotta you can find, whether it is made from cow, sheep or goat milk. The fresher the better, so if you can go for what’s on offer at the cheese counter, not the prepackaged, tasteless stuff you find in the cheese fridge of a supermarket. Even better still, make it yourself! It’s much easier than you might expect, more fun and rewarding and tastes soooo much better!

So here’s the recipes :-)…

Both of these recipes call for a crust rather than a full on pastry, making preparation easier as you dont have to worry about the hassles of making and handling pastry.

PEAR AND RICOTTA TART

Pear and Ricotta tart from Fattoria del Casaro
Pear and Ricotta tart from Fattoria del Casaro

One of the most simple and delicious desserts in Italy. The combination of fresh ricotta and pear is a marriage made in heaven. This recipe comes from Fattoria del Casaro, where I first had the privilege of eating fresh buffalo ricotta.

Pear and ricotta tart
Pear and ricotta tart

For the Crust
500g plain flour
200g butter (chilled)
150g sugar
100g ground almonds
2 eggs
a few drops of Vanilla essence

for the filling:
800g Fresh Ricotta
150g sugar
3 large pears
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp limoncello (optional!)

Pear and Ricotta tart fresh from the oven
Pear and Ricotta tart fresh from the oven

Method
1) Peel and cut the pears into chunky pieces, place in a pan with he honey and a 4 tablespoons of water. Cook until the liquid has boiled down to a syrup (5 minutes ish). Set aside to cool.
2) In a food processor mix all the ingredients for the crust until they resemble breadcrumbs
3) Drain the pears and reserve the liquid. Mix the ricotta with the pear chunks and add 2 tablespoons of the syrup. Add the limoncello if using.
4) Line a circular cake tin (8” or 9”) with grease proof paper. Put half the crust mix on the bottom and press until firm. Add the cheese mix and cover with the rest of the crust mix.
5) Place in a preheated oven (160°c / 320°f) and cook for approx 40 mins or until golden brown on top.

PASTIERE di GRANO (Ricotta and cooked wheat cake)

Ricotta and Cooked Wheat cake (with the stars) with typical christmas sweets
Ricotta and Cooked Wheat cake (with the stars) with typical christmas sweets

This is actually a typical easter cake in Italy, but I was lucky enough to be able to eat it on christmas day. It certainly wasn’t my grandmothers christmas cake (which is perhaps the greatest christmas cake in the world ever and which for me is irreplaceable) but as a cake it is delicious and highly recommended. Cooked wheat is not commonly available outside of Italy, but you can buy it online.

Grano Cotto - cooked wheat as you find it in Italy
Grano Cotto – cooked wheat as you find it in Italy

For the crust
500g flour
150g sugar
200g butter
2 eggs
grated zest of 1 lemon
For the filling
350g fresh ricotta
350g grano cotto (cooked wheat)
250g sugar
4 eggs
75ml milk
grated zest of 2 oranges

Method
1) Mix the grano cotto, sugar and milk together and cook over a low heat, stirring until the mixture is creamy. Set aside to cool.
2) In a food processor mix all the ingredients for the crust until they resemble breadcrumbs
3) Place the ricotta in a large bowl and whisk in the eggs and the grated orange zest. Mix in the grano cotto.
4) Line a circular cake tin (8” or 9”) with grease proof paper. Put half the crust mix on the bottom and press until firm. Add the cheese mix and cover with the rest of the crust mix.
5) Place in a preheated oven (180°c / 350°f) and cook for approx 40 mins or until golden brown on top.

Enjoy either of these wonderful sweets for breakfast with a cappuccino or any time you want something absolutely delicious!


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