Today I have for you one of my most requested Italian desserts, an Italian ricotta and chocolate crostata. It is basically a cannnoli tart. I use a buttery shortbread crust and fill it with a ricotta and chocolate chip filling. The eggs in the filling help keep things soft and creamy while baking.
One would think this is a dessert you would find in Sicily, with the ricotta cream and the cannoli tart reference, but I actually see it in Rome, especially around the Easter holidays (when the ricotta arrives in the spring). This dessert is often part of our Roman cooking class during our Taste of Classic Italy Vacation.
If you are, like me, the one that always brings desserts to the family or friends gatherings, you might like to mix things up a bit with this super easy and delicious tart. Whether it’s for Christmas, Easter or because you want a taste of Italy, I hope you make and enjoy this crostata.
(Recipe is enough to make two 9- or 10-inch short crust crostata each with a lattice top)
4 2/3 cup (500 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (300 grams) cold, unsalted butter
1/2 cup (60 grams) almond flour
1 3/4 cups (200 grams) powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or by hand using a pastry cutter, mix together the flour, butter, almond flour, sugar and salt until the mixture is the consistency of peas. Add the egg and stir together just until combined.
Form the dough into 4 disks about 1-inch high and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to two hours. (Tip: Flattening the dough before refrigerating it makes it easier and quicker to roll the dough out.) You will use two disks to make the Ricotta and chocolate chip crostata. You can use the remaining dough to make a Jam Tart, Lemon tart, French apple tart, or freeze it for another time.
Remove another disk of the chilled dough from the refrigerator and roll the dough out to between 1/4 and 1/8-inch in thickness. Roll the dough between two pieces of lightly-floured parchment paper. Place the rolled dough into a mold. Gently press the dough into the bottom corners and up along the sides of the mold. It is very important that you press only enough to make sure that the dough is touching the corners and the sides of the mold. You should not press so hard that you thin out the dough.
Cut the excess dough off the top to form an even edge that rises just barely, about 1/16 of an inch, above the rim of the mold. Lightly pierce the crust with a fork to leave holes for steam to release while baking. This prevents the dough from shrinking and deforming itself while baking. Refrigerate the dough in the mold for 30 minutes before baking.
Remove another disk of chilled dough from the refrigerator and roll it out into a circle around 1/8-inch thick, in the same way you did for the first disk. Using a fluted pastry cutter or a pizza cutter, cut strips to put on top of the filled crostata. For a classic way of laying the strips on the top, you would cut strips from 1/2 to 1-inch thick. You want 8 to 12 strips for the top of the crostata. Place the strips on a flat surface and refrigerate until ready to use.
If you want to be a little bit more creative, you can vary the width of each strip, cut some with the fluted pastry cutter and some with a straight cutter, and/or add flowers or leaves to the top. To add the flowers or leaves, use small/miniature cookie cutters on the rolled out dough.
18 ounces fresh ricotta, drained overnight in a cheesecloth
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
Zest of 1 small, organic lemon
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon cornstarch
About 3 tablespoons powdered sugar for the garnish
In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, 1/2 cup of sugar, egg, egg yolk and lemon zest. Add the chocolate chips. Stir in the cornstarch. Place the filling in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.
Preheat an oven to 375 F.
It is best to already have your dough strips for the top cut out and chilled before assembling the crostata. Remove the dough-filled crostata mold from the refrigerator. Pour the ricotta filling into your mold, stopping about 1/16-inch from the top. Place the dough strips on top of the ricotta filling, make a lattice top (or you can get creative as described above).
For classic placement of the dough strips on top of the crostata: Starting in the center, place the longest strip of dough on top of the ricotta filling, then another strip across it, forming an “X” with the two strips. Working out from this center, add two more strips on each side of the center strips, spacing the strips about 1 1/2 inches apart. Then add two more strips on each side of the second set of strips, again spacing each strip about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Place the mold onto a baking sheet and cover the crostata loosely with aluminum foil. Bake for 35 minutes covered. Remove the aluminum foil and bake uncovered for another 15 – 20 minutes or until the center of the crostata is just set, and the crust is light golden in color. It should still wiggle a bit in the center when it is ready. Let the crostata cool at least 30 minutes before serving. It should be served at room temperature or cold. Right before serving, dust the top of the crostata with powdered sugar. Slice and serve. Buon Appetito! Refrigerate any left-over crostata.