Last updated on September 29th, 2023.
Say hello to the “Torta della Nonna,” a dessert that transcends generations and tells a story of love, heritage, and the enduring power of homemade delicacies. From the golden, buttery crust to the luscious custard filling and a sprinkling of crunchy pine nuts, each bite of this heavenly treat of a classic Italian dessert is a bite into a world of cherished memories and unparalleled flavor.
What is Torta della Nonna
Torta della Nonna, or “Grandmother’s Cake,” is a delightful Italian dessert cherished for generations. This classic Italian custard tart originates from Tuscany and is known for its rich, creamy filling and a generous dusting of powdered sugar on top.
I have recently discovered that the French and Italian pastry worlds are very similar. Cornetti, Italian brioche croissants, are the Italian version of Croissants; Zeppole is the Italian version of Crullers, and Bignè di San Giuseppe is the Italian version of the French Choux a la creme (cream puffs). This Torta della nona is what happens when we fill a pasta frolla, also known as buttery Pate Sable (shortcrust pastry) or, with Italian with crema pasticcera, Italian pastry cream, which we also know as creme patissiere.
Of course, there are many differences regarding ingredients, techniques, and the traditions around each recipe.
Before we dive into the recipe, let’s gather all the ingredients you’ll need:
For the Pastry
- Bleached all-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- Large egg
- Zest of 1 lemon
- A pinch of salt
- Lemon zest
For the Pastry Cream
- Whole milk
- vanilla bean paste or one tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
- Large whole eggs (or egg yolks; see recipe notes for more information)
- Granulated sugar
- Corn starch
- 1/2 cup pine nuts (optional)
- Powdered sugar for dusting
How to Make Torta Della Nonna Recipe
Now that you have your ingredients ready let’s go through the steps to make this delectable Torta Della Nona:
Make The Pastry Dough
- Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and a pinch of salt in a food processor for about 10 seconds.
- Add the cold, cubed butter to the flour mixture and lemon zest, and process butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Mix in the egg and process the dough until it comes together.
- Form it into a smooth ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Make the Pastry Cream
- Heat 1 3/4 cup of milk, vanilla, and sugar in a medium saucepan until and bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, cornstarch, and 1/4 cup of the milk until it forms a smooth paste.
- Slowly pour 6 tablespoons of hot milk into the egg mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Run the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer.
- Pour the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens into a custard-like consistency. Remove from heat, cover with plastic wrap, and let it cool.
Assemble and Bake
- Use a rolling pin to gently roll out two-thirds of the pastry dough on a floured surface to fit the tart pan. Trim any excess dough.
- Use a rubber spatula to spread the cooled pastry cream into an even layer.
- Roll out the remaining pastry dough and place it on the cream. Seal the edges by pressing them together.
- Sprinkle pine nuts evenly on top. Bake until the edges of the tart are light golden brown.
- Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve before pouring it into the tart shell for a smoother custard.
- The pastry dough can also be made by hand using a large bowl and a pastry cutter.
- Make sure the ingredients for the pastry are cold. The ingredients for the pastry cream should be at room temperature.
- Allow the tart to cool completely in the tart shell before inverting and slicing.
- You can add a touch of almond extract or a splash of Amaretto to the pastry cream for extra flavor.
Store any leftover Torta della Nonna in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, or in an airtight container for up to three days. It’s best when enjoyed fresh, but it can also be gently reheated in the oven.
The dough and pastry cream can be made up to two days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
You can prepare the pastry cream a day ahead and store it in the refrigerator. Just make sure to cover it with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming.
Absolutely! While pine nuts are traditional, you can experiment with sliced almonds, chopped hazelnuts, or even pistachios for a unique twist.
We will bake the top and bottom crusts together for an even texture.
Yes, sprinkle the pine nuts on the vanilla custard and bake.
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Torta Della Nonna Recipe
Buttery short crust filled with creamy pastry cream, topped with pine nuts
For The Short Pastry (Pasta Frolla)
- 1 3/4 Cup Bleached ak-purpose flour (200g)
- 1/4 Cup Sugar (50g)
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 1/8 teaspoon Baking powder
- 1/2 Cup Unsalted butter, cold cut into one inch pieces
- Zest from one lemon
- 1 Large Egg, cold
Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera)
- 2 Large Eggs
- 1/4 Cup Corn Starch (32g)
- 2 Cups Whole milk (480ml)
- 1/2 Cup Sugar (100g)
- 1 tablespoon Vanilla bean paste or extract
- 1/4 Cup Pine nuts
- Powdered sugar for dusting
Make the shortcrust pastry
In a food processor, process the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder for 5 seconds.
Add the cold butter and pulse for about 8 seconds, until the mixture resembles wet sand, and the butter is the size of small peas.
Add the egg and vanilla extract and process until a dough is formed.
Press the dough into a smooth ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.
Make The Pastry Cream
In a small bowl, mix the eggs and cornstarch, then mix in 1/4 cup of the milk.
Pour the rest of the milk into a medium saucepan and add the sugar and vanilla extract.
Place the milk mixture over medium heat, and allow the sugar to dissolve and the milk to come to a boil. Remove from heat.
While stirring, drizzle 6-8 tablespoons of the milk mixture into the egg mixture, then run it through a sieve.
Pour the egg mixture into the milk mixture and return to heat, stirring over medium heat, until the mixture is thick.
Remove from heat pour into a container, and place a plastic wrap tight over the surface of the custard. Allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 350F (180C).
Roll 3/4 of the pastry dough into a 10-inch circle over two pieces of parchment paper; remove the top pieces of parchment paper.
Use the parchment paper to lift the pastry and place it into an 8-inch tart mold.
Gently arrange the pastry into the mold using the parchment paper. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
Remove the parchment paper, trim the edges, pour the cooled pastry cream, and spread it into an even layer.
Roll the remaining pastry into an 8-inch circle, top it over the pastry cream, sprinkle with pine nuts, seal the edges, and bake for 40 minutes over a cookie pan on the lower middle oven rack.
Allow the tart to cool for about 1-2 hours, then remove from the mold onto your serving dish. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
- This recipe yields one right-inch double-crust tart, or one 9, or ten-inch single-crust tart.
- For a ten inch tart with top crust, double the recipe by half (use one whole egg plus one egg yolk).
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator in a container for up to three days. The pastry and cream can be made up to two days in advanced and kept in the refrigerator.
To achieve a smoother custard, pass the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve before pouring it into the tart shell.
You can also prepare the pastry dough manually using a large bowl and a pastry cutter.
Ensure that the pastry ingredients are chilled, while the pastry cream ingredients should be at room temperature.
Let the tart cool entirely inside the tart shell before flipping it over and cutting it.
To enhance the flavor of the pastry cream, consider incorporating a hint of almond extract or a dash of Amaretto.