I’m recently back from a month in Italy, exploring the art and history and architecture, but let’s be honest, mostly exploring the food. Because that is what I love the most. The recipes, techniques and ideas I learned are working around in my head still, but I am sure they will come out here soon, but in the meantime, I have been drawn to the flavors I loved so much in Italy. My everyday cooking has seen a marked increase in the use of fresh basil, good Parmigiano-Reggiano and percorino cheeses, fine olive oil and rich vinegars. Light and fresh ingredients that when combined simply sing with flavor.
So it was only natural that when I set out to use some of the lovely little jewel-like cherry tomatoes from the farmers market, my mind wandered back to Italy. This is not something I learned in my travels, nor do I think it is particularly authentic, but the fresh, bright herbs and rich cheeses make a perfect match. Use the charming multi-colored tomatoes if you can find them for a nice presentation. I highly recommend using real Parmigiano cheese and grating it yourself, and rich whole milk ricotta. I’ve given measurements for the herbs below, but you can fudge a little with the quantities.
- 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup grated Parmagiano cheese
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ cup (1 stick) cold butter
- 4 – 5 Tablespoons ice water
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup whole milk ricotta
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup grated Parmagiano cheese
- 1 clove garlic, put through a press of very finely chopped
- 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place the oregano, flour, cheese, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to chop the oregano and combine. Dice the butter into small pieces and add to the flour, then pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs. With the motor running, drizzle in the ice water just until the pastry comes together in a ball and there is no dry flour left.
- Transfer the pastry onto a piece of plastic wrap and press it into a flat, round disc. Wrap in the plastic, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but it can be made a day ahead.
- When ready to prepare the tart, preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll the pastry out evenly, then fit it into the pan. Prick the pastry base with a fork many times, then line the pastry with parchment paper and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. When cool enough to handle, remove the parchment and the pie weights.
- Whisk the eggs together in a large bowl, then add the ricotta and the cream and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the cheese, garlic, herbs a few grinds of pepper and a generous pinch of salt until everything is amalgamated and evenly distributed.
- Spread the tomatoes over the pastry shell, distributing them evenly and pour over the filling. Use your clean fingers to move the tomatoes around if needed, so they are pretty well distributed and not bunched up. Grind a little more black pepper over the top, then bake for 40 – 45 minutes until the top is firm and lightly golden.
- Cool the tart for about 5 minutes before removing the ring of the pan. Slice and serve warm, room temperature or cold.
[…] had enjoyed so much there. I found myself putting basil, garlic, parmigiana and pecorino cheese in absolutely everything. I made enough pesto frozen in little cubes to feed Caesar’s armies, ate cacio e pepe every week […]