Each time we visit Rome, one of our last stops before the airport is Boccione, the kosher bakery on the Via del Portico d’ Octavia in the heart of Rome’s Ghetto. Taking home some of their Pizza Ebraica or Jewish Pizza is a must; a burnt cookie slab of sorts filled with almonds & candied fruit. The tiny Boccione is one of the ghetto’s historic sights, dating back to 1815, continuously run by the Limentani Family. Grazilla, the family matriarch runs the shop with the help of her granddaughters and niece.
The queue outside the shop is standard as their Pizza Ebraica along with Ricotta & Sour Cherry tart are legendary. Crostata di Ricotta & Viscioli is available year round however it is especially sought after at Shavuot. The origins of the crostata are said to date back to the eighteenth century when papal edicts forbade Jews to sell dairy products to Christians. Bakers cleverly disguised the ricotta between layers of pastry crust. As Shavuot falls seven weeks after Passover in time for cherry season, the combination was thought of as meant to be.
Sour or tart cherries were once grown throughout the countryside in the province of Lazio where the capital city is located. Today, the fresh cherries are more difficult to find and often the best representation is through sour cherry jam. Riccota & Sour Cherry tart has as many versions as there are Italian Nonne, some of which utilize the jam along with ricotta. Historic references to the crostata indicate that originally it was prepared with actual cherries rather than jam and a scented almond cream.
Preserved Amerana cherries are a favorite at Casa Levitt and what I use for this recipe, Fabbri always being my preferred brand. As with anything you prepare, use the highest quality ingredients you have available to you and always bake with love.
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- 1 recipe for Pasta Frolla
- 17 ounces of ricotta, drained for 2 hours
- ¾ cup of granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ teaspoon of almond extract
- 10 ounces of drained Amerena cherries, preferably Fabbri, drained on a paper towel
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Confectioners sugar
- Prepare the Pasta Frolla according to the recipe steps 1 through 3, once the dough has been prepared divide it into two portions one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each disc of dough in plastic and refrigerate overnight.
- The next morning, remove the larger disc of dough, & butter a 10 inch springform pan. On a lightly floured surface begin to roll the dough into a 13 to 14 inch circle. Be certain to move the dough as you roll and continue to dust with flour, being careful not to add too much flour as you roll. Carefully fold the circle of pasta frolla into quarters and place in the buttered pan as in the original recipe instructions. Unfold and gently set in place, bringing the dough up the sides of the springform pan about 1½ to 2 inches. Be sure to carefully maneuver the dough into the edges of the pan without stretching. Any tears or holes in the dough can easily be repaired with excess dough. Trim the edges of the pastry with a small pairing knife, this does not need to be perfect. Wrap the pan in plastic and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.
- Roll the small disc of dough in the same manner into an 11 inch circle, wrap with parchment and place on a baking sheet in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, the oven rack should be in the center. Remove the pastry lined springform pan from the refrigerator. Butter a large sheet of foil and carefully place over the pasta frolla, being certain that you have gently set it into the corners. Cover the foil with weights such as dried beans or rice. Place into the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pan and very gently pick up the foil with the weights. If the dough has risen, push it down with the back of a spoon. Return to the oven for 5 or 6 minutes until the bottom of the dough seems dry. Cool completely.
- While the pastry is cooling prepare the filling by placing the ricotta in a medium sized bowl. Whisk vigorously creating a smooth texture. Add the granulated sugar and continue to whisk until incorporated. Add the egg, egg yolk and almond extract and incorporate completely.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the second piece of pastry from the refrigerator.
- Arrange the cherries over the cooled pastry crust, distribute as evenly as possible. Spoon the ricotta filling on top of the cherries.
- Center the rolled pastry over the filling, using your fingers to gently press into the sides of the partially baked edges. Trim the edges of the newly placed top with a small pairing knife to match the existing edges. Using a bit of the beaten egg mixture as glue, brush a only enough of the egg to glue the top and bottom crusts together, pressing with your fingers.
- Brush the entire top of the Crostata with the egg wash and place the pan into the oven.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until the crust is uniformly brown and the scent of the crostata fills the room. If it begins to brown too quickly, loosely lay a piece of foil over the top.
- Cool completely, dust with confectioners sugar and enjoy.