Grandma's Great Pie

Grand Torta della Nonna

Mary Ann Esposito

Makes a large rectangular pie

The pastry shop windows in any Italian town or city display works of edible art. Usually I try something new each time. At Il Forno in Florence, a popular local spot, I got in line with everyone else giving orders. I chose the torta della nonna, or grandma's pie, and I was not disappointed.

This two-crusted flat pie, made in a long rectangular pan and cut in squares, was filled with ricotta and orange flavoring and topped with almonds and confectioner's sugar. I wanted to know exactly how it was made, and when I asked, the answer was "Un po' di farina, zucchero, uove, e mandorle." What follows is my recreation of this delicious pie. When I made it the first time, I was surprised how close it came in appearance and taste to the original.

DOUGH

4 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup solid vegetable shortening or lard
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg

FILLING

2 cups milk
1/2 cup semolina flour
2 cups well-drained ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup apricot jam, warmed
3/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. With a fork or your hands, cut in the shortening or lard until the mixture is coarse.

In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the milk, vanilla, and egg together and add to the flour mixture. Combine with your hands until a soft ball of dough is formed. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk for the filling just to a boil. With a wooden spoon, stir in the semolina flour in a thin stream and continue to stir until the mixture thickens and leaves the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and let cool to lukewarm.

In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, eggs, sugar, orange zest, and juice. Add the semolina mixture and beat with an electric mixer just until blended. Set the filling aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Divide the dough in half and roll 1 piece on a floured surface into a 15-X-11 1/2-inch rectangle. Place the dough on a greased cookie sheet of the same size and pat gently to fit. Fill any small holes by stretching and patting the dough into place. Spread the filling evenly over the dough to the edges. Set aside.

Roll the remaining dough into another 15-X-11 1/2-inch sheet. Using your rolling pin, carefully lift the dough and place it over the filling. Use a fork to pinch the edges closed. If a tear occurs, patch it with some of the dough.

Bake the pie for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned. You may have to move the pie from the bottom rack to the middle rack for even browning. Remove the pie from the oven and immediately brush with the warmed apricot jam. Sprinkle the almonds evenly over the top, gently pressing them to adhere, and let the pie cool completely.

Before cutting and serving the pie, sprinkle the top evenly and generously with confectioner's sugar. Cut into squares.

Variation: Add 1/2 cup each raisins and diced citron to the filling.

This recipe is from NELLA CUCINA by Mary Ann Esposito.

item recipe is featured in Episode 0 of Season 0.

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