Pasta in a dessert tart? Yes, of course. What is pasta after all? Just wheat. But what a lovely textural surprise this tart offers with cake crumb in the center and a little chew and crunch on the outer edges. And talk about flexibility! I’ve turned this one inside out, and so can you.
I’ve had the cookbook The Renaissance of Italian Cooking by Lorenza de’Medici for many years. It’s gorgeously photographed, and has interesting history, stories, and recipes from an aristocratic era gone by, including a version of an angel hair pasta tart (Torta di Capelli d’Angelo). But do you ever look forward to something so much that you intentionally put it off for a while to avoid potential disappointment? That’s what I did with this tart, which originates from central northern Italy (Emilia Romagna). I’d been looking at the recipe for well over a decade and finally decided, “this is the day!” and made it.
The original recipe was easy. It was unique. And I had most of the ingredients already, anyway. But my apprehension was somewhat justified. The result was just, “ok…” It was a little flavorless. However, it had enough intrigue for me to give it an overhaul while keeping its spirit intact.
I got it right by making process simplifications (Did I really need to separate eggs and dirty extra bowls as the original called for? No!). And I made ingredient adjustments and additions (Did I really need to add spices and extra flavorings? Yes!). The baking time and temperature was also too long and hot, so I updated those, too.
This is a soft tart perfect for breakfast or with coffee or tea. It slices beautifully. Try it with candied and/or dried fruit. Use any type of nuts (or no nuts) that you prefer. As I said, you can turn this inside out to make it your own.
Buon Natale a tutti! See you back here in January.
Here’s the recipe:
Angel Hair Tart (Torta di Capelli d'Angelo)
- 7 ounces dried angel hair pasta (do not use a thicker pasta, it won’t be the same)
- 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt for the pasta water
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup chopped candied or dried fruits (or a mix)
- If using dried fruits, soak in 1/2 cup liquid such as water, sweet wine, brandy, etc., for 30 minutes. Then drain
- 3/4 cup almonds (or any other nut)
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 of the beans from a vanilla pod), or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 medium orange (zest and orange)
- Place ricotta in a sieve and drain over a bowl in your refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight to remove excess water (whey)
- Pre-heat oven to 325F (163C) with rack in the center of the oven
- Grease a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan (if you don’t have one, a regular pan will work, but line the bottom with parchment paper for easy removal)
- In a shallow and wide sauté pan, bring water and salt to a boil (enough water to cover pasta by about 1 inch)
- Zest the orange and set aside the zest. Cut the zested orange into 8 pieces
- Boil the angel hair pasta and the 8 orange pieces for 3 minutes. Drain. Do not rinse (you need the starch in the pasta). Discard the orange pieces. Set aside the pasta to cool
- In a large bowl, beat eggs, sugar and cream at medium-high speed for 4 minutes
- Add in all of the remaining ingredients to the egg mixture except for the pasta and mix on low until just combined
- By hand (Yes! Messy! But the most effective way), mix in the pasta, distributing the batter, fruit and nuts as evenly as possible
- Pour batter into prepared springform pan and level by hand
- Bake for 60 minutes (check at the 50-minute mark. If it is browning too much, place foil over the pan)
Let cool until just warm, and serve with jam, whipped cream, sour cream, or by itself.