I found this recipe on Nick Malgieri's website. I have seen quite a few recipes for this traditional Italian ricotta-pinenut tart-some with the pinenuts encorporated into the pastry, some in the topping. This is a sweet version, but I have seen savory versions with spinach- and I must say they look nice too.
Mario Batali says that you will find a ricotta pinenut tart in virtually every bakery in Italy-it is a traditional classic. He suggests that a slice with a glass of wine in the afternoon is the way to go, and I am inclined to agree, now that I have ahem, calmed down. It is lush and creamy, not too sweet, and has nice little bursts of flavor and texture from the peel, caramel., and pine nuts.I liked it, and my friends did too.
I've been looking at all these recipes for awhile, deciding which to try. The arrival of a Mother's Day gift including a glorious immense bag of pine nuts tipped the balance in favor of this recipe, which carmelizes and highlights the pinenuts. It is the creation of Jo Bettoja, an American cooking teacher, author, long time resident of Italy, and friend to Mr. Malgieri. I have adapted this only very slightly from the recipe on the website, for your convenience, in case you decide to make it- which course of action I cautiously recommend, as explained below.
Caramelized Pine Nuts
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, and cut into 10 pieces
2 teaspoons finely grated orange or lemon zest
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons milk or water
2 pounds whole-milk ricotta
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
4 large eggs
Caramelized Pine Nuts (see above), chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
One 9-inch round pan, 2 inches deep, buttered
Caramelized pine nuts: Butter a jelly roll pan. Mix the sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and stir. Cook over a medium flame, stirring with a metal spoon, until the sugar starts to melt .Decrease the heat to low and cook until it is a deep amber color. Immediately stir in the pine nuts and pour the mixture onto the buttered jelly roll pan. Let the nuts cool for a few minutes. When they are firm, but not hard, loosen the caramel from the pan with a wide spatula and turn it over to prevent sticking.
When it is firm and cooled-chop it up with a large knife. You can store it in an airtight tin, if you like.
The dough is easiest to make in a food processor, so I will give you those directions. You can make it by hand, though. I did, my processor having recently given up the ghost (Shortly after I made this tart, I gave in and got a new one on sale- a nice little 7 cup Kitchenaid with an additional small bowl and blade): Combine the dry ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix. Add the butter and pulse about 10 times to mix the butter in finely. Add the orange zest, yolks, and water and pulse repeatedly until the dough forms a ball. Invert the dough to a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Squeeze the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it while preparing the filling. You can put this in the fridge for 2 days before proceeding, or freeze for a couple of months..
Preheat to 350F.
Filling: Put your ricotta in a large mixing bowl and beat it smooth with a large rubber spatula. Beat in the sugar and orange zest. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating smooth after each addition. Stir in half the chopped pine nut caramel.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and gently knead it on a floured surface until it is smooth. Place it on a floured surface. Flour the dough and roll it to a 13-inch circle. Transfer it to the prepared pan. Press the dough well into the bottom and sides of the pan. Use a bench scraper or the back of a knife to sever the excess dough at the rim of the pan.
Pour the filling into the pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with the rest of the pinenut praline. Use a table knife to loosen any dough on the side of the pan above the filling and turn it down over the filling.
Bake the tart until the dough is baked through and the filling is slightly puffed, about 45 minutes.
Cool the tart on a rack, wrap the pan in plastic, and chill. Thoroughly. Well. I mean this most emphatically, as you will see.
To unmold the tart, for serving, warm the bottom of the pan over low heat for a few seconds. Invert the tart to a rack and remove the pan. Replace the pan with a platter and invert the whole stack and remove the rack. Obvious alternative-springform pan. I used a deeper, smaller pan, more like 7" at the bottom, and a bit wider at the top, aiming for a taller tart, which I hoped would look impressive. It is certainly tall. If you do this, it will take longer to bake and set, of course-in my case, over an hour. Stoves vary wildly, too.
Warning: I do like it tall, but it is a bit tricky to handle this way. In fact, you are looking at my second tart. I was impatient, and didn't let the first one chill properly. It was pretty when it first came out, but slowly, slowly cracked, quivered and collapsed into a trainwreck/ mudslide before my eyes. I reacted to this baking disaster with all the aplomb of a disappointed toddler. Be glad you were not there to witness the event. After I hastily reassembled my persona, the blubbery mass, studded with caramelly nuts, was delicious served in bowls- so I knew I had to try again. Stubbornly, I used the same deeper, smaller pan.
In retrospect, a picture of the first tart, fully collapsed, would have been good here. It didn't occur to me at the time. After the cave-in of the tart, and my personal disintegration, I was way too giggle-ridden to operate a camera. Anyhow, I had the hiccups.