Gina de Palma is the reigning queen of Italian sweets (her book Dolce Italiano belongs on every baker’s shelf) so whenever I get a request for something Italian, I go to her first. Her recipe for torta della nonna is straight-up traditional, but when you combine it with her trademark citrus-infused pasta frolla, it’s something of a show-stopper. You’ll need:
1 recipe pasta frolla
16 ounces (2 cups) whole milk
2 3-inch long strips fresh lemon zest
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
2.5 ounces (scant 1/3 cup) sugar
4 egg yolks
pinch kosher salt
1.25 ounces (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon soft butter
2.5 ounces (1/2 cup) pine nuts, toasted and cooled
Roll the dough out to a circle about 11 inches across. It should be about 1/8 inch thick. Press the dough into a 9 inch springform pan. Chill the dough for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Next prepare the filling. Combine the milk, lemon peel, vanilla bean seeds and half the sugar in a medium saucepan. Set it over medium heat.
While the milk mixture is heating combine the egg yolks and remaining sugar in a medium bowl with the salt. When the milk begins to boil, which the flour into the yolk mixture, then add about two tablespoons of the hot milk mixture. Whisk it all together, then steadily whisk in the rest of the hot milk. Pour the whole mess back into the saucepan and bring it to a simmer, and cook about a minute, until it is quite thick. Pour the filling through a strainer into a medium bowl and lay on a sheet of plastic wrap to keep a skin from forming.
Next, par-bake the shell. Lay parchment paper into the springform pan and add pie weights, dry beans or loose change to help the crust keep its shape. Bake for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the parchment and the weights. Bake another 5-7 minutes until the crust is lightly browned.
Remove the crust from the oven, allow it to cool about 10 minutes, and pour the filling into the warm shell. Smooth the top, allow it to cool completely, then place the tart in the refrigerator to chill.
When ready to serve, de-pan the tart and sprinkle with pine nuts. Guild the lily by adding berries or chocolate shavings.