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Italian Free-Form Apple Tart (Crostata Di Mele Alla Romana)


Italian Apple Crostata

I have been taking an Italian cooking series at the Institute of Culinary Education and it’s been an amazing opportunity to make fresh pastas, risottos, sauces and classic Italian dishes and desserts. I’ve decided I want to start baking more and was thrilled to learn how to make a lovely free-form apple tart called Crostata Di Mele Alla Romana. This delicious dessert is basically an Italian version of an apple pie but without a pie dish, made on a baking sheet. Super easy and super delicious, and perfect for the holidays.

The handmade dough is rolled out on to a sheet pan, with a delicious warm apple, rum, butter and cinnamon filling, then topped with a lattice crust and sealed together around the edges with rolled dough. The crusty is golden and flaky, with a buttery cake-like texture and is topped off with sprinkled confectioner’s sugar. You won’t be able to resist the smell of warm apples and cinnamon that permeate the kitchen making this the ultimate comfort food for your friends and family. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Pasta frolla:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
3 large eggs

Apple filling:

3 lbs. tart apples, such as Granny Smith
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dark rum
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Egg wash:

1 egg well-beaten, with a pinch of salt

For the dough, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until finely mixed in. Add the eggs and continue to pulse until the dough forms a ball. Shape into a disk, wrap the dough and chill it for at least 1/2 an hour.

For the filling, peel, core and slice the apples thinly. In a medium saute pan, combine the apples with the sugar, butter, rum and cinnamon and simmer uncovered, over low heat until the apples exude their juices, about 10 minutes. Continue to simmer until the filling is fairly dry, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and set a rack in the lower third of the oven. Cover a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment or foil.

making the crostata

Divide the dough in half, roll half into a 12 inch disk and transfer it to the pan. Using a plate or platter as a pattern, cut the dough into a perfect 11-inch circle. Spread the filling to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the dough.

Cut rolled pasta dough

Roll 2/3 of the remaining dough into an 8 by 12-inch rectangle and cut into sixteen 1/2-inch wide strips.

Making the lattice crust

Brush the strips with egg wash and arrange them on the filling in a diagonal lattice. Use the remaining dough and scraps to make a long cylinder.

Making the tart dough edge

Egg wash the edge of the tart and apply the cylinder. With the back of a knife, make diagonal impressions in the cylinder.

Bake the tart until the dough is nicely colored, about 30 minutes.

Italian Free Form Apple Tart

Top with powdered confectioner’s sugar, let cool slightly and slice. Serve with French vanilla ice cream.

*Note: You can also substitute 2 1/2 lbs pitted sour cherries or blueberries, (fresh or frozen) for the apples.

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Big Pot ‘o Goodness: Pasta Fagioli


Pasta Fagioli

Cooking is one of my favorite things to do in the Winter – there’s something comforting about the delightful smells that warm up my apartment on a cold, dreary day. Pasta Fagioli is an Italian soup made with herbs, beans, pasta, tomatoes, garlic and broth, topped off with some fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. And it’s easy to make too – just throw all the ingredients in a large soup pot and cook it slow and low for an hour or so. The end result is a big pot ‘o goodness to warm up your toes.

Pasta Fagioli

Extra virgin olive oil
1/3 pound pancetta, diced
1 onion, diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 cup chicken broth, low sodium
1 spring rosemary
2-3 springs fresh thyme
cheesecloth, for rosemary and thyme herb sachet
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pound ditalini pasta (or any short-tube pasta)
Basil leaves, torn for garnish
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for garnish
Extra olive oil, for drizzling

Coat a large, wide pot with olive oil and add pancetta. Bring to a medium heat and cook the pancetta until it starts to crisp, 4-5 minutes. Toss in the onion and season with salt and red pepper; cook until the onion is soft and aromatic, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add tomatoes and 1 cup of chicken broth, rosemary and thyme sprigs (in cheesecloth sachet), season with salt and black pepper, and bring to a boil; then reduce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the herbs sachet and discard.

Add the cannellini beans and chickpeas to the pot and cook for 20 minutes more.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta two-thirds of the way until it is still fairly hard in the center. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add pasta and cooking water to the pot with the tomatoes and the beans and continue to cook until the pasta is done, another 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with some torn basil leaves, grated Parmigiano cheese and drizzle with some extra olive oil for garnish.

Serves 4-6.

Recipe adapted from Anne Burrell, Cook Like a Rock Star

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