Nick Malgieri
Nick Malgieri

Easter Pine Nut Tart

Tarts like this one are available in many pastry shops in southern Italy in one or another form.  This one derives from a tart I tasted in the late eighties at Giolitti, an elegant Roman pastry shop mostly known for its exquisite gelati.  Though the Roman version is baked in a deeper pan, I like a removable bottom tart pan for this – it’s only an inch high, about half the size of a typical Roman one, but it conveys the flavor and texture of the filling perfectly without being cloying. 

Be sure to use canned almond paste for this – the type that resembles a little sausage has little flavor.

Makes one 11-inch tart, about 10 servings

Pasta Frolla

1 cup flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 8 pieces

1 large egg

Almond and Pine Nut Filling

8 ounces canned almond paste, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1/3 cup all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

1/2 cup pine nuts (pignoli)

Confectioners’ sugar for finishing

One 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom

  1. For the dough, combine the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to mix.  Add the butter and pulse until it is completely absorbed.  Add the egg and pulse to form a ball.
  2. Press the dough into a disk on a floured surface.  Flour the dough and roll it to a 12-inch disk.  Fold the dough in half and set it into the pan, lining up the fold with the diameter of the pan.  Unfold the dough to fill the pan and press it well into the bottom and sides of the pan.  Sever the excess dough at the rim of the pan.
  3. Set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  4. Combine the almond paste and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium speed with the paddle until reduced to fine crumbs, about 2 minutes.  Add one of the eggs and continue beating until the mixture turns to a heavy paste.
  5. Beat in the butter and continue beating until the butter is completely absorbed.  Stop and scrape down the bowl and beater.  Beat in the remaining egg, then the egg yolks, beating smooth after each addition.  Stop and scrape the bowl and beater.
  6. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest, followed by the flour.
  7. Use a large rubber spatula to give a final mixing to the filling and scrape it into the prepared pastry crust.  Use a small metal offset spatula to spread the filling evenly in the crust.
  8. Scatter the pine nuts all over the almond filling, gently pressing them to make them adhere with the palm of one hand.
  9. Bake the tart until the crust is baked through and the filling is set and well colored, about 30 to 35 minutes.
  10. Cool the tart on a rack.

Serving:  Unmold the tart and slide it to a platter.  Serve wedges of the tart unadorned.  This is a better tea pastry than a dessert.

Storage:  Keep the tart at room temperature wrapped in plastic.  It will start to become dry after a couple of days.