Crostata Ricotta e Visciole - Roman Jewish Sour Cherries & Ricotta Tart

Crostata Ricotta e Visciole Photography © ShulieMadnick
The Eternal City is one city in Europe that I am compelled to revisit as soon as I land back home. Last fall, we met our son in Rome, and stayed in an apartment by Roscioli for a week, out of our two-week vacation. We also traveled to Florence and Cinque Terre and took a quick day trip to Pompeii. The richness of the food in Florence appealed to our son. While I enjoyed it, I am an unwavering die-hard fan of Roman food.

In Rome, I gravitate towards to the Jewish Ghetto several times during our stays and spend a considerable amount of time in the Jewish quarter. The Jewish Ghetto was established in 1555 on the banks of the Tiber River, at the time swampy and undesirable neighborhood. At times I just sit on a bench during magic hour observing the warm light washing over the historic buildings and glistening on the cobblestones at what is now a prime real estate. Curiously watching the elderly locals entering a small restaurant with a deli counter that is not hyped by glossy travel magazines and getting glimpses of tourists falling into hyped dining traps.

Pasticceria Boccione, Jewish Ghetto, Rome photography © ShulieMadnick
The one place I wish I could have full access to and go behind the scenes and photograph is Pasticceria Boccione, a little Kosher Jewish bakery with no sign pointing to the place. It's the last remaining Kosher Jewish bakery in the Ghetto. According to correspondence with Micaela Pavoncello, a local Jewish tour guide, it was established in 1815 by the Limentani family, who still operates all aspects of this establishment, from baking to the front of the house, 205 years later, today. The bakery, also known as Forno del Ghetto, is usually packed with a line winding out the door. One of my favorite desserts in Rome and Italy, crostata ricotta e visciole - sour cherries and ricotta crostata, is sold there. It's a rustic, plump tart brimming with sweetened cheese and a cracked and charred top crust. This inconspicuous bakery runs out of its limited menu offerings fast, but we were lucky to buy a slice. If it weren't for the grumpy women working there, who can be a little intimidating, I would have remembered to order a slice of the almond paste and cherries ricotta crostata. They also offer a chocolate version. At times the ladies will ignore you and serve the Italian customers, who come in behind you first, but it's a part of the "charm" and experience.

Pasticceria Boccione is also famed for pizza ebraica, a Jewish pizza that is not a pizza at all. It was brought to Rome by Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily. A hefty rectangular block of scone-like pastry, only much denser and heartier, bursting with whole almonds, pine nuts, candied and dried fruit.

But I am the ricotta tart fan. The timing couldn't have been more perfect with Shavuot starting tomorrow.  On Shavuot, we consume a myriad of cheesecakes and dairy dishes. The Basque cheesecake is all the rage in Israel for Shavuot this year, but I give you the Jewish ricotta and cherry tart from the Roman Ghetto.

Author's notes on the recipe:

I searched for recipes and eventually came across a link to one, written in Italian, through Pasticceria Boccione's FB page. The measurements are rounded in oz and cups. I took the liberty to reduce the sugar amount, add lemon zest and salt in the pastry dough and vanilla, and an egg in the ricotta filling. The result is far from identical to the original, but it's still delicious.

The pastry dough in this recipe is super delicate. The recipe is a bit finicky but it worked out. Heavily flour the surface to roll it out. If it tears when you move it to the tart baking dish, just patch it up with the dough scraps. I formed little discs and decorated the top to hide the tears.

I put the crostata under broil for several seconds after it completely baked (golden top) to achieve the burnt look the original has, but as soon as it started charring, I pulled it out of the oven. The golden top is fine for this crostata.

Crostata Ricotta e Visciole - Roman Jewish Sour Cherries and Ricotta Tart

Pastry Dough Ingredients:

9 oz all-purpose flour
1 stick (4 oz/8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk, whisked
Zest of 1/2 medium lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Extra flour for rolling out the dough
1 egg, whisked for brushing

Ricotta Filling Ingredients:

400 grams / 15 oz ricotta
1 egg, whisked
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
100 gr / 3.5 oz (1/2 cup) sugar

14 oz canned pitted sour cherries, strained and tossed in with 3 tablespoons sugar or cherry preserves or jam

8-inch pie or pie pan

Dough Directions:

Add the flour, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and add into the flour mixture. With your fingers, or with a pastry cutter, work the butter into the flour until a fine crumb consistency achieved. Add the lemon zest and whisked egg and egg yolk and gently knead to mix. Collect the dough and gently knead. Form an approximate 5-inch disc. Wrap the dough disc with clingy plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.

Ricotta Filling Directions:

Mix the ricotta, whisked egg, sugar, and vanilla extract for a couple of minutes until a smooth consistency is achieved. Refrigerate until the assembly of the crostata.

Crostata Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Flour 2/3 of the dough and on a heavily floured surface roll out 2/3 of the dough into 9-10 inch circle. Gently wrap the dough on a floured rolling pin and unfold it into the pie pan. Press the dough at the bottom and sides of the pan and fix any tears. Trim the excess dough with a knife.

Spread the cherries (without excess juice) or cherry preserves evenly at the bottom of the pie crust. Spread the ricotta filling evenly on top of the cherries.

Flour the remaining 1/3 dough and on a heavily floured surface roll out to a little over 8-inch circle. Cut a circle in the middle with a small, round cookie cutter. Save the round piece of dough. Fold the rolled out pastry dough on a floured rolling pin and gently unfold on top of the ricotta. Make sure the edges on top are covered with dough and trim and excess dough. Place the small circle of dough back in the middle.

Brush with a whisked egg.

Place a cookie sheet at the bottom rack of the oven to catch any excess spills from the tart.

Bake the tart at a preheated 350 F for 45-50 minutes or until golden on top. Let completely cool before slicing and serving. Best to refrigerate overnight before serving.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post! The recipe looks so delicious and the background information was very interesting. I've never been to Rome but we have visited Jewish quarters in other Italian cities.

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