What if the turkey was—gasp—replaced by cheeseburgers or something else at the Thanksgiving table?! Or if that green bean dish smothered in a souped-up sauce and topped with crunchy onions was missing? Do you have to have potatoes a certain way or your inner child might threaten to throw a tantrum? (I recall an episode of Friends when the potato preparation was under debate and it wasn’t pretty.) And don’t even mess with the pumpkin pie! The Thanksgiving dinner is certainly a very classic meal that we’re used to having “just so,” with slight variations by family. But there’s always room to try another dessert (alongside your pumpkin pie, of course, or later when you’ve “earned it” after a brisk walk or outing to the neighborhood park with the kids). This walnut tart is a great option if you’re bringing dessert to a gathering, or if you’re hosting, it can be made a few days ahead and refrigerated.
This recipe from Real Food was adapted by Rozanne Gold from Arthur Schwartz’s book The Southern Italian Table: Authentic Recipes from Traditional Kitchens. Created at his cooking school, Cooking at Seliano, in southern Italy, just south of the Amalfi Coast, it’s packed full of walnuts, one of the world’s healthiest foods. Sorrento walnuts, famous all over Italy, are very plump, very flavorful, and very crunchy. This tart is generally made with pasta frolla (Italian short pastry), but it is equally good with ready-made pie crust. (Arthur’s recipe for pasta frolla is below.) While Thanksgiving may not be a traditional holiday in the hill towns of southern Italy, flavors from the area lend themselves beautifully to top off a Thanksgiving meal. Make sure to use a deep pie crust so there’s plenty of room for the filling. And it’s recommended to serve with vanilla ice cream. Few could argue with that on “Graziegiving.”
Torta di Noci (Walnut Tart from Sorrento)
2 deep 9-inch frozen pie crusts (or scratch pastry, recipe below)
1½ c. sugar
2 Tbsp. honey
¾ c. plus 2 Tbsp. heavy cream, warmed
3 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
vanilla ice cream
Place a rack in center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. If using frozen crusts, allow pie crusts to thaw.
Combine the sugar and 6 tablespoons of water in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the mixture turns medium amber, about 8 minutes; shaking the pan occasionally but not stirring. Be careful not to burn. Remove from heat. Stir in the honey. Carefully pour the warm cream, ¼ cup at a time into the simmering caramel, stirring constantly. Stir in the walnuts. While still hot, pour the mixture into the pastry. Cut remaining pie crust into strips to form a lattice top. Brush with beaten egg. Bake 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool thoroughly.
Pasta Frolla (Italian Short Pastry)
For a 9-inch, lattice-topped tart
1¼ c. confectioners’ sugar
3 c. bleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, room temperature
2 large eggs, lightly beaten together
½ tsp. vanilla
grated rind of 2 lemons or 1 large orange (optional)
Combine sugar, flour, baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir the ingredients on low speed.
Beat the eggs together in a small bowl or cup with the vanilla. Set aside.
Add the butter to the mixer and, on low speed, blend butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like coarse meal. Add the eggs; mix again until the dough forms a ball.
Scrape the dough out of the bowl. Knead a few times to make sure it is well blended. It will be slightly sticky, but should not require a floured surface to knead it just a few times. Divide the dough into two disks, one that is a third of the dough, the other two thirds. Wrap each disk in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Roll out between sheets of waxed paper or parchment. Press the larger disk of dough into 9-inch tart pan. Roll the smaller disk until it’s about ¼-inch thick, and cut into decorative strips or use decorative cookie cutters to make small pastry-crust decorations for the tart top.
Nutrition info (per serving) Torta di Noci: CALORIES 498 (57 from fat); FAT 33g (sat. 9g); CHOL 41mg; SODIUM 132mg; CARB 47g; FIBER 3g; PROTEIN 7g