Torta Della Nonna

This tart is a tribute to our baking and dessert inspirations: our grandmothers (nonna is the Italian word for “grandmother”).


one 9-inch/23 cm tart


8 to 10

Prep Time:

45 minutes, plus chilling and setting

Cook Time:

55 minutes


About this Recipe


Recipe from Set for the Holidays
Appetite for Random House, 2018

I adore the simplicity of this tart—a tender, sweet shortcrust pastry (pasta frolla) is filled with a vanilla custard (crema pasticciera), topped with another layer of custard and then sprinkled with pine nuts before baking. The subtle perfume of lemon in the crust and custard reminds you that this dessert is Italian. If need be, make the pastry dough and pastry cream ahead of time and chill both until it’s time to assemble the torta.
warm pizza dip


Pasta Frolla:

  • ¾ cup (175 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (450 g) all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of fine salt

Crema Pasticciera and Assembly:

  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup (100 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3½ cups (875 mL) 2% milk
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 lemon
  • 6 Tbsp (90 g) unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, well whisked, for brushing
  • ⅓ cup (30 g) pine nuts
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

NOTES: This pastry cream thickens nicely. Once you see bubbles breaking the surface as the custard simmers, you know it is cooked and can come off the heat. And once it’s baked into the tart and cooled, the custard is just soft enough that it almost wants to climb out of the tart. If you prefer a firmer custard, cook it for a whole minute after it reaches a full simmer and starts to bubble. A flour-based custard like this one can take a little extra heat and continue to thicken, whereas a cornstarch-based custard does not.

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1

For the pasta frolla, beat the butter and sugar by hand until smooth. Beat in the egg yolk and then beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the lemon zest and vanilla. Add the flour and salt and stir until the dough comes together. You may need to turn the dough out onto your work surface to bring it together. Shape the dough into two discs (one slightly larger, for the base), wrap well and chill for at least 3 hours.

Step 2

For the crema pasticciera, whisk the sugar and flour together in a medium saucepan and whisk in the milk, followed by the egg yolks. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the zest from the outside of the lemon and add these pieces to the pot (the rest of the lemon is not needed). Place the butter and vanilla in a medium heatproof bowl with a strainer placed on top.

Step 3

Bring the milk mixture to a full simmer at just above medium heat while whisking constantly (but not vigorously), until it begins to bubble and is very thick, about 10 minutes (see note). Pour the custard through the strainer, using the whisk to push it through, and then whisk the custard in the bowl until the butter has melted. Cover the custard with a piece of plastic wrap placed directly on its surface and let cool on the counter for an hour before chilling completely, at least 2 hours.

Step 4

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Step 5

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the slightly larger piece of dough to ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. Lightly flour the bottom of a 9-inch (23 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom. Line the pan with the pastry, pressing it well into the edges and trimming the excess from the top. Spoon all of the chilled custard into the tart pan and spread and level it (it will come up almost to the top of the pan). Roll out the remaining disc of pastry and place it directly on top of the custard. Press the pastry at the edges to trim and seal the tart at the same time.

Step 6

Brush the top of the tart with the whisked egg and sprinkle the top with the pine nuts. Place the tart pan onto a baking tray and bake for about 45 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown at the edges and lightly browned in the centre. Transfer the tart pan to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature and then chill for at least 3 hours before serving.

Step 7

Remove the tart from the pan, transfer to a platter and dust with icing sugar before serving. The tart will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days.