Traditional Italian Jam-filled Tart
One of Italy’s best traditional pastries is also perhaps the simplest, a jam-filled tart that every Italian has grown up with. Although often overlooked in favor of more elaborate recipes, the humble crostata is always delicious, satisfying and, for many locals, brings back happy childhood memories. In the latest edition of the Foodie Sisters video series, Valeria and Benedetta find out more about this scrumptious taste of nostalgia.
The traditional Italian crostata is made with a shortcrust pastry dough known as pasta frolla. The base is flattened onto a baking sheet then filled with jam, fruit or cream before being topped with pastry strips laid out in a criss-cross design. This gives the crostata its distinctive look and distinguishes it from a typical French ‘tarte’, which does not have a pastry grid, and the British pie which will generally be topped with another layer of pastry.
The birth of the crostata is linked to the origins of the torta salata or savory pie. In the beginning, the pastry was simply a vessel within which to cook low-quality meat and unappealing vegetables to render them more appetising. With the passing of time and the innovation of new cooking techniques and equipment, the pastry became thinner and lighter until it was considered a fundamental feature of the dish. The name torta eventually came to be used for both sweet and savory recipes, but the term crostata is only relative to this particular sweet version.
The crostata is quick, easy and cheap to prepare making it a popular pastry to make at home; many Italians recall the taste of their grandmother’s recipe or remember eating it when they were young. It is the perfect choice for breakfast or sweet snack with coffee. In Italy, you can find crostata in many cafés, pastry shops, and bakeries where it is sold in a variety of sizes from small individual cookies to larger versions to slice and share. Crostata fillings are mostly fruit-based with apricot, plum, and sour cherry being the most common in Rome, but you may also come across variations with cream custard, chocolate, or sweetened ricotta. Whichever you opt for, make sure that you do not miss the chance to taste a traditional crostata when in Italy.