Torta paesana is a delicious typical dessert from the Lecco, Monza, and Brianza areas of Lombardy, in the north of Italy. It is a humble dessert prepared with dried or fresh fruit, which is used to obtain a natural sweet flavor that is rich and inviting.
In times past, sugar was a rarity found only in the pantries of the upper classes. As a result, this cake contains very little white sugar, making it healthier than other desserts but just as delicious because of the sweetness from the other ingredients.
Today the torta paesana is mostly consumed as a dessert, but in the past it was sometimes eaten instead of a full meal. It was also often served on special occasions, such as holidays like Christmas and Easter, where it could be found on the tables of the masses.
I made this recipe for the first time years ago as it was one of the recipes included in the Nonna Box Lombardy Box. I was surprised by its simple yet delicious taste using stale bread and just a few ingredients.
For US measurements, look down in the recipe card.
Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Bread and milk mixture: In a small saucepan, warm the milk slowly over a low flame until hot but without bringing it to a boil (photo 1). Cut the stale bread into little cubes and place in a bowl (photo 2).
Put the grated orange zest (grated ahead of time) into the bowl with the bread. Add the warm milk to the bread and orange zest and combine everything together with a wooden spoon (photo 3). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (photo 4) and then set aside to soak for 30 minutes, mixing occasionally.
Raisins and orange juice mixture: In another bowl, mix the raisins and orange juice (photo 5) that you squeeze ahead of time and set aside until later.
Prep and add additional ingredients to the bread: Grind the amaretti cookies into a powder, either with a blender or by placing them in a bag and crushing them by hand (photo 6). Add the ground amaretti to the bread mixture.
Melt and add the chocolate: Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie, double-boiler or microwave until liquid and stir into the bread mixture (photo 7).
Add the last ingredients and mix all together: Beat the eggs and add them to the bread mixture. Now add the sugar and pine nuts to the bread mixture and stir (photo 8).
Drain and add the raisins: Using a sieve or colander, drain the orange juice from the raisins and add the raisins to the mixture (photo 9). You can discard the orange juice.
Prep and bake the cake: Grease and flour a 10-inch cake pan and then pour the mixture into it evenly (photo 10). Be sure your oven has reached 350°F. Place the cake in the oven on the middle rack for roughly 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. When finished, take the torta paesana out of the oven and leave it to cool. Remove the torta paesana carefully from the cake pan and serve on a cake plate.
There are multiple variations of this recipe, and some of the ingredients can be replaced with whatever you have in your pantry.
Try other easy cake desserts:
Torta paesana will last for 2 to 3 days at room temperature in an airtight container.
I don’t recommend freezing torta paesana.
If you don’t have any day-old bread to use, you can cut the fresh bread into little cubes and spread them out on a baking sheet and leave them for a few hours uncovered at room temperature.