In about a week I will be in Puglia, the southeastern region forming the heel of Italy’s boot. I can’t wait to return to this beautiful corner of Italy and to discover local dishes and recipes. In preparation for my holiday, I have made a “pizza di ricotta”, a typical cake of the Apulian tradition that is prepared at Easter. It’s a shortcrust pastry tart with ricotta cheese, chocolate, almonds and orange zest.
I found this recipe while reading Paola Bacchia‘s cookbook Adriatico, a beautiful collection of Italian recipes from the north to the south of our Adriatic coast.
The name “pizza” in Puglia (and Abruzzo) is used to call sweet and savoury pies. This cake is what I would call a “crostata” in Italian or tart in English. The pastry is made with flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, milk and olive oil.
A traditional pizza di ricotta is filled with ricotta cheese and candied fruit. Paola’s recipe instead uses finely chopped dark chocolate and almonds, and orange zest. She also add a splash of sambuca in the pastry and a few spoonfuls of white rum in the filling, neither of which unfortunately I had at home.
I recommend baking the cake the day before you intend to eat it. The ricotta cheese filling needs needs a few hours to completely cool down and set.
By the way, this is my first bake in my new kitchen in Wroclaw (southern Poland), so it felt extra special making it!
Sandy and I ate a slice each, and then I asked him to take the rest of the cake to work and share it with his colleagues. Paola recommends storing the cake in a cool spot for up to one or two days, but we are going away today for the Easter weekend (and it’s going to be hot) so I didn’t want to risk it going to waste.
I hope you have exciting plans to celebrate Easter and the bank holiday, wherever you are!
For the pastry
- 250g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 125g granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp milk
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp aniseed liqueur
For the filling
- 500g fresh ricotta, drained
- 2 eggs
- 125g granulated sugar
- 75g dark chocolate, grated or finely chopped
- 100g almonds, finely chopped (not ground)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- zest of 1 orange
- 3 tbsp white rum
- icing sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease a 21 cm tart tin with a removable base (a smaller tin won’t work, but a 23cm should be fine).
To make the pastry, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl using a whisk (or a food processor). Add the egg, milk, olive oil and (if using) the aniseed liqueur. Stir until the dough comes together.
Dust a kitchen counter with flour and knead the dough for a a minute or two until smooth (I added a handful of flour at this stage, as the dough was very wet and sticky). Cut the dough in two portions: 2/3 for the base and 1/3 for the lattice top. Wrap the small portion in cling film and store it in the fridge.
Roll out the large portion of dough to form a circle of about 3-4 mm thick and 23 cm in diameter, large enough to cover the base and sides of your tart tin. Gently press the dough around the edges of the tin to cut off the excess. Rest the pastry base in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, eggs and sugar. Add the chocolate, almonds, cinnamon, orange zest and rum. Stir well until all the ingredients are well mixed. Pour the filling into the tin lined with pastry.
Roll out the remaining dough to a thickness of 3-4 mm. Cut it into strips and arrange them in a criss cross pattern over the filling. Gently pinch the ends of the strips to attach them to the pastry rim.
Bake for 50-60 minutes until the pastry is cooked through and of a golden colour. Set aside to cool completely before removing the tart from the tin.
Serve cold with a light dusting of icing sugar. You can store in an airtight container in a cool place for a couple of days.