Rustic Ricotta Tart Recipe
courtesy of Guiseppa Maria DePaulo and Jim Bonavita
20 ounces ricotta cheese
¾ cup granulated sugar
zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 tbs granulated sugar
4 tbs butter, melted and cooled
½ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ cup flour
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. For the filling, beat eggs and sugar together till smooth. Stir in the ricotta, cinnamon and zests until well mixed, but do not overbeat.
3. For the dough, mix sugar and eggs together. Add cooled, melted butter and baking powder. Knead till smooth.
4. Flatten into a pancake and chill for 30 minutes. Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand to come back up to room temperature.
5. Roll dough out to piecrust thickness and drape across the bottom and sides of a tart pan. Use the rolling pin to cut across the sides of the tart pan to cut off excess.
6. Bake for 50-60 minutes until the center is firm. Cool completely and refrigerate.
7. To serve, garnish with lemon or lime slices.
About The Rustic Ricotta Tart Recipe
Not too far as the crow flies from the town where my family came from in Italy lies the village of Torricella Peligna. While a virtual neighbor, it is a village I had never heard of until a friend in Wilmington, Delaware told me about his family’s roots there. The town where my family came from, Giulianova, is a seaport on the Adriatic coast of Abruzzo, but Torricella sits high in the mountains at a crossroads where provincial roads connect like a spider web. A quintessential mountain village, it is surrounded by the vast panorama of the Maiella mountains to the north and the Adriatic Sea to the east. It is a tiny village with only 1,400 folks living there, including many relatives of my friend.
This week marks an important celebration in Torricella, the feast of Saint Anthony the Abbot. On January 17th, religious plays are performed in honor of the hermit saint who is a patron of peasants and protector of animals. On that day families serve special dishes. With the icy wind that blows from the Adriatic still howling, residents enjoy hearty bowls of Pasta Fagioli and celebratory desserts. One such dessert is an Abruzzese style ricotta pie. In a sheaf of family recipes my friend gave to me, I found one for this dish written by his grandmother, Guiseppa Maria DePaolo. Making the pie was entirely an experiment. I had never baked a piecrust made with eggs but they yielded a dough with silky, rich texture. Her recipe for the filling called for 12 eggs and two hours of baking which was a little daunting, so I looked for a way to simplify it. Cutting the filling in half and baking the pie in a tart pan sounded like a plan. I was curious that even the pared down ingredient list wanted the zest of one whole orange and one whole lemon, which seemed like a lot of citrus, but as I folded the zest into the ricotta, the aroma filled the room. They say you come to know those whose recipes you make.
I learned that Guiseppa and her husband Carmine came the US in 1920, settled in Philadelphia and raised their family there. Their journey reminded me of my own grandfather who left Giulianova, found his future and raised his family in Wellsburg, West Virginia.
In honor of our neighboring towns and Saint Anthony I’m so happy to share her recipe.