Topped with pine nuts and a dusting of powdered sugar, the Torta della Nonna features a lemon vanilla custard inside of a cookie-like crust. It’s delicious!
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My, what a delicious cake you make, Grandma! Literally translated as “Grandmother’s cake,” the Torta della Nonna is a classic Italian dessert. It’s rustic in the best way possible. Like many Italian recipes, it’s simple to make. But don’t let its’ simplicity fool you – a slice of Torta della Nonna is a delicious way to end the day!
Over the years, my wife and I have had the chance to travel to Italy several times. Each time, we have come away even more enamored by this wonderful country. You see, I have this strange obsession with Roman history. I find the Roman empire to be absolutely fascinating – both its rise and its fall. On our trips, I’ve drug Laura through more Roman ruins than she would care to admit. And guess what? There are more ruins to be seen! Somewhere Laura just groaned. I heard it.
I do my best to keep the ruins to a minimum, and Laura obligingly puts up with my strange passions. Another passion that we both share? Italian food and wine. We joke that we ate our way across Italy years ago on our honeymoon. We had more pizza, pasta and Italian bread dipped in olive oil than I can count. But splurging a bit is the point of vacation, right?
Years ago, we were staying at a small hotel in Anacapri (on the upscale island of Capri). We were sitting on the back terrace enjoying a cappuccino (or two) and flaky croissants.
I went back up to get another croissant, and that’s when I discovered one stuffed with vanilla custard. I had no idea such a thing existed! And clearly it made a lasting impact on me as I still remember that croissant 10 years later!
Torta della Nonna
After much googling and a few failed attempts in the kitchen, I figured out that the vanilla custard was essentially an Italian pastry cream (i.e. crema pasticcera). It was light with a noticeable vanilla flavor, and I’m pretty sure I could’ve eaten it with a spoon.
So what’s the connection between that croissant and this Torta della Nonna? Well, the Torta della Nonna is stuffed with a delicious Italian pastry cream. I need to try my hand at making croissants again and stuffing them with this same pastry cream. I’m fairly certain they will take me back to that hotel in Anacapri!
As noted above, the Torta della Nonna is a simple recipe, but the flavors are absolutely delicious. Pair this with an espresso, a glass of wine or perhaps a sip of vin santo. That’s my kind of way to end a meal!
While ‘torta’ translates to ‘cake,’ this dessert is more of a pie. However, this double-crusted pie isn’t like a traditional pie you might find in the States. The crust is similar to pasta frolla, or a shortcrust pastry, and it’s lightly flavored with lemon zest. The filling…well, we’ve already covered the filling. It’s delicious!
If you’re looking for a tasty Italian dessert recipe, then try your hand at the much beloved Torta della Nonna. I particularly enjoy trying new recipes, and this one has earned a spot in my list of favorites. I hope it lands on your list of favorites, too! Cheers!
Did you make this Torta della Nonna at home? Leave a comment, or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog). I’d love to see your version!
Torta della Nonna
For the Crust
For the Filling
- ½ cup pine nuts i.e. pinoli
- powdered sugar for dusting
For the Crust
- Using a food processor, add the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt; pulse until well combined.
- Cut butter into small cubes and add to the food processor; pulse until a crumbly mixture forms.
- Add egg, egg yolks and lemon zest; pulse until dough comes together in a ball.
- Flatten dough into a disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Note: Dough can be made the day before and refrigerated overnight.)
For the Filling
- Using a medium heatproof bowl, add egg yolks, flour and sugar; whisk until well combined.
- Add ¼ cup of milk; whisk until well combined. Set mixture aside.
- Pour remaining milk (1¾ cups) until small saucepan. Add vanilla extract and lemon zest; stir until well combined.
- Place saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring often.
- Once simmering, slowly pour the hot milk into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly while you pour.
- Return mixture to saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring often, until mixture thickens and begins to boil. Continue cooking for 1 more minute, stirring constantly.
- Pour/press mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl; press plastic wrap to the surface of the custard. Let custard cool to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Remove pastry dough from refrigerator and divide into 3 equal pieces. Working on a well-floured surface, combine two of the pieces of dough and use a rolling pin to roll dough into a 12” circle.
- Transfer/press dough into a 10” tart pan with removable bottom.
- Transfer custard into tart pan.
- Roll remaining piece of dough into a 10” circle and place on top of custard. Pinch top and bottom pieces of dough together and pinch off any excess.
- Rinse the pine nuts in cold water. Sprinkle dampened pine nuts on top of the tart, pressing lightly with hand so that they stick to the dough.
- Bake for 30 minutes, tent with foil and then continue baking for 10-12 more minutes, or until tart is golden brown.
- Let tart cool to room temperature. Dust top lightly with powdered sugar before slicing and serving.
Looking for other Italian dessert recipes? Check out some of these other favorites: