Torta della Nonna

  • by Nonna Box May 4, 2019
  • |
  • Last Updated on December 4, 2022
Torta della Nonna Recipe

Torta della Nonna is a traditional Tuscan dessert that is often made to enjoy after the large Sunday meal by, you guessed it, the nonna (grandmother in English) of the family. This classic Italian dessert has a delicious shortcrust pastry base and a creamy vanilla custard center and is topped with pine nuts and dusted with powdered sugar. With that list of delicious ingredients, it’s not hard to guess why it’s one of our absolute favorites.

In Tuscany, you can find torta della nonna on most trattoria dessert menus, with a million little variations depending on the nonna running the kitchen. Keep reading for an easy-to-follow and absolutely delicious torta della nonna recipe you can make for your friends or family the next time you get together for a big Sunday meal.

What equipment is needed to make torta della nonna?

This recipe has a lot of steps and a lot of mixing, so there are a few pieces of kitchen equipment that are great to have when making this recipe. Here is a list of what we recommend having on hand.

  • a cake pan or tart pan possibly with a removable bottom
  • an electric mixer and/or a stand mixer with dough hooks
  • a flat marble slab or other flat surface for rolling out the dough
  • several medium bowls
  • a deep medium saucepan
  • plastic wrap
  • parchment paper
  • a rolling pin

What ingredients do you need to make this recipe?

Cake flour or all purpose flour – we prefer cake flour for this, but if all you have is all purpose flour it should work fine.

Butter – softened at room temperature until very soft, most Italians cook with unsalted butter so if you can find that it works great, if not, salted butter is fine too.

Eggs – for your eggs and yolks we highly recommend using farm fresh eggs.

Sugar – regular white sugar works perfectly with this recipe for grandmother’s cake.

Baking powder – to give your dough that little lift.

Lemon – we recommend an organic, thick-skinned lemon which is the best for making lemon zest. Since you will be using the rind, untreated lemons are an absolute must for lemon zest.

Vanilla extract – the aroma of pure vanilla extract is heavenly and this recipe uses it in both the pastry dough as well as the pastry cream.

Salt – you just need a dash of fine salt, we love fine sea salt from the Mediterranean.

Whole milk – the recipe calls for full fat milk and if you can get it from a local dairy, all the better. You can also use lower-fat milks, but you might need to adjust how you cook the cream if you do.

Fresh cream – we love a rich cream for making this, so we recommend fresh, whole cream.

Potato starch – you don’t need much and it ensures the perfect thick cream texture.

Pine nuts – we know pine nuts can be expensive, but they usually can be found in small packages so you can buy just enough for this recipe if you don’t normally cook with them or try storing the unused portion of pine nuts in a freezer-safe ziplock bag in the freezer where it will keep the pine nuts good for months.

Powdered sugar – in Italy, powdered sugar often comes flavored with vanilla, but we prefer straight powdered sugar without the vanilla flavor as the cake already has a lot of vanilla flavor in it.

How to make torta della nonna, step by step

Instructions

  1. You will start by making the pasta frolla or shortcrust pastry. In a stand mixer with a dough attachment or a food processor add the sugar, butter, pinch of salt, lemon zest and vanilla and mix well.
  2. Now add the whole egg and then add egg yolks one at a time, continuing to mix. The egg mixture should be light and fluffy.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder.
  4. Now add in all the flour mixture to the butter and egg mixture and stir by hand with a wooden spoon until it is incorporated.
  5. Now transfer the dough to a flat, well floured surface and knead it, it shouldn’t stick to your hands. Form it into a large ball and cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 30-40 minutes to chill.
  6. Now you will make the filling by first whipping the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla extract using an electric beater for 2 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  7. Add the sifted flour and potato starch to the eggs and mix again with the electric mixer until it is smooth.
  8. In a deep sauce pan, mix together the milk and fresh cream and bring to a boil.
  9. As soon as the milk begins to boil, remove from heat and add the egg and flour mixture and then put it back over medium heat.
  10. The egg and flour mixture will float on the top and after 1 minute the mixture will break up and the milk will come through. At this point you will need to stir very quickly with a whisk and turn off the heat. The cream will be ready in just a few seconds when it becomes dense.
  11. As soon as the pastry cream mixture thickens, pour it immediately into a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream to prevent skin forming. Place the bowl in the fridge to chill for at least 15-20 minutes.
  12. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  13. Divide the dough in half and roll out each dough ball with a rolling pin on a hard surface until each is a circle that is 4-5 mm thick.
  14. Line a cake pan or tart pan with baking paper and then place one of the circles on the bottom and up the sides of your cake pan. Pinch the edges tightly to the mold, cut off any excess and prick the bottom with a fork.
  15. Spread the cooled pastry cream filling (crema pasticcera) evenly over this layer and then put the other circle of dough over the top and pinch the edges together to close.
  16. Brush the top lightly with a few drops of water and decorate with pine nuts.
  17. Put the Italian custard tart in the oven to bake for 45-55 minutes. The cake should be slightly golden and the pine nuts a toasty golden brown when the cake is ready.
  18. The cake must then be left to cool completely for at least 2 to 8 hours (preferably). It is very important that you not cut it when it is still warm as the pastry cream will not have set up yet.
  19. Remove the cake with the help of the parchment paper or open the cake pan if you have a removable bottom.
  20. Cover the top of the cake with a generous amount of powdered sugar through a fine mesh strainer and serve at room temperature.

Expert tips for making torta della nonna

For a perfect crust: don’t skip the step when you cover the dough and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 to 40 minutes. This step of chilling the dough allows it to form a compact, harder dough that is easier to roll out and keeps its form better.

Our expert tip for making the pastry cream is not to allow it to boil too hard at the beginning and also to remove it from the heat as indicated to avoid it getting lumpy or overlooked and instead helping it to have the perfect vanilla custard flavor and texture.

We recommend to let the tart cool completely, because the pastry cream filling needs to set up, and this takes time. We recommend you wait at least 2 hours before serving the cake and preferably up to 8 hours, so you will need to plan ahead. Most Italian nonnas make it the night before a big family meal!

Variations on the standard torta della nonna

There are plenty of variations on torta della nonna, because every Tuscan nonna makes it differently. There are those who use ricotta for the filling and others who just do a bottom layer of pastry and don’t add the top layer. Other nonnas might add raisins, chocolate chips or even more pine nuts in the crema pasticcera custard filling. I have even seen it served with fresh berries.

Try other Italian dessert recipes:

FAQs

How long can I keep torta della nonna dessert?

After you bake it, you can store the torta della nonna cake in a plastic cake container or Tupperware at room temperature for 3-4 days. We do not recommend putting the cake in the refrigerator except for periods of hot weather during which it will be necessary.

How should I store torta della nonna?

You can store the cake directly in the cake pan it was baked in and cover it with tinfoil or plastic wrap or you can transfer it to a plastic cake container, Tupperware or even a covered glass cake stand. We recommend leaving it at room temperature, unless the weather is very hot. We don’t recommend freezing it.

Torta della Nonna Recipe

Torta della Nonna

This traditional Tuscan shortcrust pastry with vanilla custard is a true Italian classic from Florence and the Tuscan countryside.
4.20 from 101 votes
Print Pin Rate Save Recipe
Course: Dessert
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 10 slices
Calories: 540kcal
Author: Nonna Box

Ingredients

Shortcut Pastry

  • 330 grams (0.73 lb) cake flour or all purpose flour + one spoonful for dusting
  • 165 grams (5.82 ounces) unsalted butter softened at room temperature
  • 1 (1 ) egg
  • 2 (2 ) egg yolks
  • 130 grams (0.29 lb) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) baking powder
  • 1 (1 ) lemon to grate for zest
  • 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch (1 pinch) of salt

Italian Pastry Cream Filling

  • 400 grams (13.53 floz) whole milk
  • 100 grams (6.67 tbsp) fresh cream
  • 6 (6 ) egg yolks
  • 150 grams (12.5 tbsp) sugar
  • 30 grams (4 tbsp) all purpose flour
  • 20 grams (2.5 tbsp) potato starch
  • 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) pure vanilla extract

Topping

  • 80 grams (8 tbsp) pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) powdered sugar

Instructions

  • To make the shortcrust pastry, you will need a stand mixer, food processor or an electric mixer with dough attachment and a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, butter, pinch of salt, lemon zest and vanilla and turn the machine on to mix the dough.
  • Now add the egg and egg yolks one at a time, mixing continuously. The mixture should be light and fluffy. Add the next egg when the first is fully mixed in.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder.
  • Now add in all the flour to the butter and egg mixture and stir by hand with a wooden spoon or spatula until it is incorporated.
  • Now transfer the dough to a flat surface that has been dusted with flour and knead it to form a smooth ball that does not stick to your hands. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator to rest for 30-40 minutes.
  • While the dough is resting, you can make the filling.
  • To make the filling, first whip the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla extract using an electric beater or mixer for 2 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Now add the sifted flour and potato starch and mix it all together with the electric mixer until it is smooth.
  • In a deep sauce pan, mix together the milk and fresh cream and bring to a boil.
  • As soon as it begins to boil, remove from heat and add the egg and flour mixture and put it back over medium heat.
  • The egg mixture will float on the top and after 1 minute the mixture will break up and the milk will come through. At this point you will need to stir very quickly with a whisk and turn off the heat. The cream will be ready in just a few seconds when it becomes dense.
  • Pour it immediately into a large glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap that touches the surface. Place the bowl in the fridge to let it cool for at least 15-20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  • Divide the dough into two balls. Roll out each dough ball on a cold, hard surface (such as marble) until you have formed a 4-5 mm thick circle with each.
  • Line the bottom of a tart pan with baking paper. Put one circle down on the bottom and sides of your pan. Pinch the edges tightly to the mold, cut off any excess and prick the bottom of the crust with fork tines.
  • Spread the chilled pastry cream mixture evenly over this bottom layer and then put the other circle of dough over the top and pinch the edges together.
  • Brush the top lightly with a few drops of water and decorate with pine nuts.
  • Put in the oven to bake for 45-55 minutes. The cake is ready when it is light golden brown and the pine nuts are lightly toasted.
  • The cake must then be left to cool for at least 2 hours but preferably up to 8 hours! It is very important that you not cut it when it is still warm as the custard will not have set up yet and it will be a runny mess.
  • Remove the cake with the help of the parchment paper or open the cake pan if you have a removable bottom.
  • Dust the top of the cake with a generous amount of powdered sugar and serve at room temperature.

Notes

For a perfect crust: don’t skip the step when you cover the dough and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 to 40 minutes. This step of chilling the dough allows it to form a compact, harder dough that is easier to roll out and keeps its form better.
Our expert tip for making the pastry cream is not to allow it to boil too hard at the beginning and also to remove it from the heat as indicated to avoid it getting lumpy or overlooked and instead helping it to have the perfect vanilla custard flavor and texture.
We recommend to let the tart cool completely, because the pastry cream filling needs to set up, and this takes time. We recommend you wait at least 2 hours before serving the cake and preferably up to 8 hours, so you will need to plan ahead. Most Italian nonnas make it the night before a big family meal!
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