A nubby almond and oat flour tart crust, lightly sweetened whole milk ricotta filling, and a swirl of bright fruit jam makes an easy, elegant, and gluten-free almond crostata. Adapted from Naturally Vegetarian: Recipes and Stories from my Italian Family Farm.
I’m excited to share this gluten-free almond crostata recipe with you today. It comes from Naturally Vegetarian: Recipes and Stories from my Italian Family Farm by my friend Valentina Solfrini. I fell in love with Valentina’s lush photography and innovative vegetarian dishes infused with Italian flavor via her blog Hortus many years ago. Her book is a perfect embodiment of her site, and it’s packed with achingly beautiful pictures and romantic writings of her life in Gradara.
Having lived in Italy for a year during college, I got to explore many regions of the country, from Puglia to Milano and many places in between. Paging through Naturally Vegetarian was a bit like coming home. I have to admit that during my time there, few pastries managed to impress me when compared to their French counterparts. I ate many chewy Italian cornetti, which always felt like a pale comparison to an uber flaky French croissant. Dry cantucci needed to be dipped in a cappuccino to become edible, where French macarons and sables simply melted in the mouth of their own volition. The most egregious was the Italian crostata, baked in a crust called pasta frolla – essentially a French pâte sucrée ruined by an egg that gives it a spongy rather than shortbread-like texture.
I had it in my head that French Pastries trumped their Italian cugini. But when I saw Valentina’s Almond Crostata, I was eager to be proven sbagliato. The recipe cast away my fears because if there are two things I love in life, it’s cheese and dessert, preferably rolled into one. Thus I dropped what I was doing and put together this luscious dessert.
Valentina’s pasta frolla is no ordinary recipe; hers uses a blend of whole wheat, rice, and almond flours blended with potato starch and dark brown sugar for extra flavor. I swapped in oat flour for the whole wheat to make it gluten-free, but Valentina also includes the GF option of finely ground polenta, which also sounds sublime.
Another bonus to this recipe? It gave me a vessel for a jar of homemade jam, of which there are many in my cupboard. This was a blend of raspberry, peach, and strawberry and when I opened it and took a bite, it smacked of bright summer days and outdoor picnics – just the antidote to the winter doldrums.
The dough comes together quickly in a food processor, and just needs to be pressed into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, no chilling or rolling required. My kind of tart crust. My own tart crust uses a similar method, with a French-style dough that takes a good 10 minutes to get into the pan. Pasta frolla gets extra moisture from an egg and a splash of milk, and a bit of leavening helps it puff in the oven. These make it easier to work with and more forgiving, and the result lands somewhere between a chewy cookie and a dense cake. It’s thicker than a French crust and it melds more with the filling. Extra bonus: there’s no parbaking required.
Whole milk basket ricotta is so luscious I have a hard time not eating it straight from the container with a spoon. This gorgeous substance forms the base of the filling lightened by whipped eggs and flavored with a scrape of lemon and splash of vanilla. The tart is only as good as your jam, so choose one that tastes bright and has a good amount of acidity. Apricot, plum, or blackberry would be lovely too I’d imagine.
The crust, ricotta, and jam filling all meld into one dessert that tastes sweet from brown sugar, savory from tangy ricotta, bright from summer fruit jam; all in all, a bit too easy to eat slice after slice while standing over the stove. It’s an ideal wintertime dessert for when you don’t want chocolate but there isn’t much fresh fruit about. And though I’m not Italian by heritage, this dessert reminded me of the Jewish sweets my paternal grandma, who we called bubba, would make that often made use of almonds, sweetened cheese, and preserves.
While I can’t promise to eschew French tart crusts, this crostata changed my mind about pasta frolla. It’s more forgiving and less fussy than its French counterpart, with a soft chew and delicate, nubby texture from the alternative flours. I look forward to making this the next time I find myself with an extra jar of jam lying around (which, with any luck, will be soon).
Other recipes on my list from Naturally Vegetarian are:
- Veggie-Loaded Chickpea Pancakes with Pecorino
- Chickpea Crespelle with Spring Vegetable Ragù
- Fennel Gratin with Saffron and Nuts
- Radicchio & Walnut Risotto
- Vegetarian Bolognese Sauce
- Bewitched Ricotta Mousse with Roasted Balsamic Grapes (of course!)
If you love vegetarian Italian cooking and you don’t mind some gluten and dairy in your diet, pick up a copy of Naturally Vegetarian.
*Thanks for reading! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, purchase my gluten-free cookbook Alternative Baker, or subscribe to receive new posts via email. And if you make this gluten-free almond crostata with ricotta and jam, I’d love to see! Tag your Instagram snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet. This post contains affiliate links.*
- cooking spray or soft butter, for the pan
- ¾ cup (80 g) GF oat flour
- ½ cup (80 g) sweet white rice flour
- ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons (70 g) blanched almond flour
- 3 tablespoons (30 g) potato starch (I think tapioca starch would work too)
- ½ cup (100 g) packed organic light or dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons (40 g) cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- grated zest of ½ large lemon
- 2 tablespoons milk of your choice
- 1 large egg, separated
- ¼ cup (50 g) organic granulated sugar (decrease to 2 tablespoons if your jam is very sweet)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest from ½ large lemon
- 12 ounces (about 1 ½ cups, 340 g) whole milk ricotta cheese (I prefer Bellwether Farms basket dipped ricotta)
- big pinch salt
- 1 ¼ cups cherry or berry jam, or another jam that you love the flavor of
- a handful of sliced almonds, for garnish
- Place a 9- or 10-inch tart pan with a loose bottom and 1.25-inch high sides on a rimmed baking sheet. Rub the tart pan well with the soft butter or spray with cooking oil, taking care to grease the fluted edges of the pan.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the oat, sweet rice, and almond flours with the potato starch, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the cold butter, egg, vanilla extract, and lemon zest and blend until the butter is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Drizzle in the milk and process until the dough comes together. Gather the dough into a ball and press evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan; it will take a few minutes to make it look pretty. Chill the dough until firm while you prepare the filling.
- Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.
- Combine the egg yolk, brown sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest in a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with a handheld mixer or the paddle attachment until thick and foamy, 5 minutes. Beat in half of the ricotta until just combined, then beat in the remaining ricotta.
- In a separate, completely clean bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg white and salt with a whisk or the whip attachment until soft peaks form. Fold one-third of the beaten egg white into the ricotta mixture, then fold in the remaining egg white.
- Spread all but 3 or 4 tablespoons of the jam in the bottom of the chilled tart crust. Scoop the ricotta mixture on top and spread into an even layer. Drop spoonfuls of the remaining jam over the ricotta and swirl with the tip of a chopstick. Decorate the edges of the tart with the sliced almonds.
- Bake the tart until the filling is puffed and somewhat set and the edges of the tart are golden, 35-45 minutes; the crust will still be soft but a toothpick inserted into the crust should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Take care not to overbake; this crust is more similar to a cookie or cake and wants to be kept moist.
- Let the tart cool completely. Release the sides from the pan, cut into wedges, and serve at room temperature. The tart can be made a day ahead; chill until ready to serve. Leftovers keep for up to 3 days refrigerated airtight.