Torta della Nonna is a sweet tradition in Tuscan cuisine and one of Italy's renowned cakes. Its Tuscan origin is thought to be the workings of a Florentine chef, eager to bring new flavours to his customers in the early 1900s. Maria is our 5-star resident chef at Villa d'Elsa, nestled in the heart of Chianti. Join her in the kitchen as she breaks down this Tuscan recipe for Torta della Nonna (Italian Custard Pie).
The key to this dessert is the creamy custard filling, which alone has the most intricate ingredients but is still easy to make. Torta della Nonna relishes in Tuscan simplicity, extracting the flavours of tangy lemon, sweet vanilla and the spiking of pine nuts to create a tantalising filling. The smooth filling's decadence is contrasted perfectly with the shortcrust pastry's crumbly texture for a tempting dessert that will impress you guests.
Torta della Nonna (Italian Custard Pie)
Makes around 30 truffles - Cook in 10 minutes plus 30 minutes to chill in the freezer
- 400g all-purpose flour
- 200g butter, diced room temperature
- 4 egg yolks
- 150g granulated sugar
- ½ lemon, grated zest
- 8 egg yolks
- 1 vanilla pod, cut in half (seeds removed)
- 250g granulated sugar
- 1L fresh whole milk
- 80g all-purpose flour
- 120g pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Start by preparing the shortcrust pastry. In a large bowl sift the sugar, flour and add a pinch of salt. Add the diced butter and 4 egg yolks. Knead until you have a smooth and even mixture. Make a smooth ball, wrap with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
In the meantime, prepare the custard. Place the milk in a medium saucepan (keeping aside one glass of milk), add the grated lemon zest, vanilla pod and stir on low heat. Leave the mix too steep, and bring almost to a boil. Remove from heat and discard the lemon zest and vanilla pod.
Add the remaining glass of milk to a bowl, mix in the 8 egg yolks, flour and sugar. Add the custard base to the hot milk, and cook for 10-15 minutes until the custard is thick, stirring frequently. Turn off the heat, place the custard in a large oven dish, cover with cling film and leave to cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (°C), and grease a cake pan (around 9-10 inches in diameter) with butter and flour. Roll out ⅔ of the pastry to a thickness of around ¼ inch (½ cm). Cut out a circle and flip it into the tin, using your fingers to press the pastry into the surface of the tin. Remove any excess pastry, and pierce the surface with a fork.
Pour the cooled custard into the pastry shell. Roll the remaining pastry dough into a thin circle large enough to cover the top of the tart, place on top and pinch the edges together. Pierce the surface with a fork and brush with milk or water (optional). Sprinkle with pine nuts, making sure to press them gently into the surface. Bake for 40-50 minutes until golden.
Allow the tart to cool before adding a final touch of powdered sugar. Buon Appetito!