Savoury tarts are one of my favourite dishes to make for a special meal with my husband. I like to keep them vegetarian, so I always have a base layer of cheese with a top layer of vegetables, topped with a variety of herbs and spices. These mini Asparagus, Almond and Grana Padano Tarts are a take on a classic frangipane tart (with a savoury twist) and a fantastic idea for a dinner at home or a picnic in the park.
I usually make one large tart using an oven tin or pastry dish. This time I decided to make mini tarts because they are pretty and easier to freeze if you have any left over. When it comes to tarts, I al-ways prefer to make more than two portions and save the rest for another time.
For this recipe I decided to use the more mature Grana Padano Riserva: it is matured for more than 20 months and has a flaky texture that is perfect for grating. The cheese has strong, nutty flavours, which I needed to stand out in among all the other ingredients.
I have been eating Grana Padano all my life: the cheese was a staple in my family kitchen, as it is a staple in many Italian kitchens still today (and it’s been for nearly 1000 years)! As a picky young girl, I didn’t like to eat Grana Padano grated over pasta (although my taste has changed since then). Instead I would ask my mum to cut a piece of cheese for me and I would eat it as an after-noon snack or to calm hunger pangs before lunch or dinner.
Many years later, when I started cooking meals for myself and for my husband, I discovered how versatile Grana Padano cheese is. I still like to eat a piece of Grana Padano before dinner, but I also love to use it to create wonderful recipes and to uplift many savoury and sweet dishes.
For this recipe, I took inspiration from the Italian savoury tarts my mum used to often make at home. I made the puff pastry myself rather than buying it from the supermarket, as I usually do. Making puff pastry is not difficult, but it takes a while as you need to fold the sheet of pastry several times every few hours. The good thing is that I easily made more than a kilo of puff pastry (recipe from Dan Lepard), used less than half to make these tarts and stored the rest in the freezer. Homemade pastry is cheaper than buying ready-made pastry and undoubtedly tastier.
My asparagus, almond and Grana Padano tarts are filled with a savoury frangipane mixture made with butter, eggs, garlic. I added breadcrumbs and ground almonds to create a thick paste and add texture to the tarts. I used two kinds of cheese: ricotta to keep the mixture soft and grated Grana Padano Riserva to add pungent flavours.
Makes 6 small tarts.
Heat the oven to 200℃. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until light. With the machine running on medium speed, slowly incorporate the eggs. Add the breadcrumbs, ground almonds and garlic until everything is combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a spatula, gently fold in the ricotta, Grana Padano and salt. Set aside.
Roll the pastry into a rectangular sheet, about 5mm thick. Cut into 6 identical squares. Grease the baking trays with a little sunflower oil and lay the pastry rectangles on top.
Spread the almond mixture evenly over the pastries with a spoon. Lay the asparagus on top of each tart. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with black pepper.
Bake the tarts for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 160℃ and carry on cooking for another 10 minutes, until the base is brown. Keep an eye on the tarts constantly as baking times may vary between ovens. Remove from the oven, leave to cool slightly, then serve.
Disclaimer: this post was written in collaboration with Grana Padano. All opinions are my own.