Finding Sweet Balance with the Classic Italian Jam Crostata

Italian Pastries Are Rich With Just the Right Touch of Sweetness

When it comes to sweets in Italy, less is more. Now, that doesn’t mean the Italians don’t like their treats. Italian pastries and desserts like the classic Italian jam crostata can be incredibly rich and flavorful, and you’ll never meet a nonna without something sweet up her sleeve. 

But if you compare them to the over-the-top sweetness of many of our American desserts, they’re much more balanced and far less sugary. I love this approach to sweets because I believe a little balance helps you enjoy la dolce vita that much more. 

Even as a kid I knew the Italians were on to something. While other kids begged for birthday cakes with frosting and ice cream, I always opted for something much less sweet. My go-to favorite birthday treat? The jam crostata: a semi-sweet tart topped with homemade fruit jam. 

How to Make the Italian Crostata: Three Ways

Crostatas are a common snack in Italy, and are thought of as a “nutritious cookie” as the nonnas would say. They make an excellent low-sugar dessert, but they’re also great as a midday snack or even a light breakfast. 

The crostata tart recipe is so simple that there are endless variations and ways you can flavor the dough to make it your own. In my versions, we’ll use Einkorn wheat, an ancient grain that is easy on digestion and is packed with nutrients. 

Tip! Be sure to save your dough scraps to make extra crostata cookies or tart toppers. Believe me, they’ll go fast! 

Classic Italian Crostata Base Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

1 Cup Einkorn Flour*
1/3 heaping Cup almond flour**
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
About 3 to 4 tbs cold water
Anna Maria’s Bell Pepper Jam

*For a fully gluten-free recipe, switch to 1 cup gluten-free flour (I like cup-by-cup brand).
**For a nut-free version, replace the almond flour with the same amount of either Einkorn or gluten-free flour. 

How to Prepare the Basic Italian Crostata Crust:

Place flours, sugar and salt into the food processor bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the butter has become cous cous size balls in the dry mix. While the machine is running, drizzle in the water until the dough becomes a ball.

Transfer the dough into a lightly floured bowl and quickly form it into a flat disk. Don’t worry if the dough is too wet or to dry, you can just add flour or water until it forms a non-sticky disc. Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour or up to a day.

To Bake: 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll the dough in a circle ¼ thick and pat it into a tart pan with removable bottom, cutting the dough flush at the edges. Or 6 smaller tartlet pans, you choose, both are pictured.

Re-roll the cut off dough and form 2 decorative cookies (I choose stars for this one).

Place a bowl of parchment paper into the tart and fill with baking weights. Bake the tart until it is only partly cooked; about 10 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and weights and cook for 5 more minutes.

Cook the decorative cookies on a non stick baking sheet all the way through, 8 to 12 minutes depending on the thickness. They are done if you poke with a finger and the dough bounces back.

To Fill: 

This tart base goes well with nearly anything, but I love to use our Anna Maria’s Bell Pepper Jam. Don’t let the bell peppers fool you – they are deliciously sweet and will make a delicious (if surprising) snack.

Or, go the extra mile and make our decadent Chocolate Cheesecake Tart Glazed with Strawberry Rose Jam. It is a serious crowd-pleaser!

For the Einkorn amounts, they are the same as the gluten free amounts. We should say that for fully gluten-free you can switch to GF flour, and for nut free you can switch the amount of Almond flour to einkorn or GF.

 

Chocolate Italian Crostata Base Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

1 Cup Einkorn flour*
1/3 heaping Cup almond flour**
4 Tablespoons Cocoa
3.5 Tablespoons Sugar
1 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
About 3 to 4 tablespoons cold sweetened espresso
Anna Maria’s Almond Apricot Jam

*For a fully gluten-free recipe, switch to 1 cup gluten-free flour (I like cup-by-cup brand).
**For a nut-free version, replace the almond flour with the same amount of either Einkorn or gluten-free flour. 

How to Prepare the Chocolate Crostata Crust:

Place flours, cocoa, sugar and salt into the food processor bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the butter has become cous cous size balls in the dry mix. While the machine is running, drizzle in the espresso until the dough becomes a ball.

Transfer the dough into a lightly floured bowl and quickly form it into a flat disk. Don’t worry if the dough is too wet or to dry, you can just add flour or water/espresso until it forms a non-sticky disc. Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour or up to a day.

To Bake:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll the dough in a circle ¼ thick and pat it into a tart pan with removable bottom, cutting the dough flush at the edges.
Re-roll the cut off dough and form whatever shapes you want to top the crostata with (stars, lattice, shapes). 

Place a bowl of parchment paper into the tart and fill with baking weights. Bake the tart and cookies until they are only partly cooked; about 10 minutes. Take both out of the oven, remove the parchment paper and weights out of the tart and cook for 5 more minutes. For wheat crust add about 5 minutes to your timings.

To Fill:

This chocolate base pairs beautifully with the brightness of apricot. Fill the tart with Anna Maria’s Almond Apricot Jam and top with your cookies, just as we did with our Halloween Scary Boo Crostata.

Scary boo crostata | AnnaMaria's Foods

 

Savory Italian Crostata Base Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

1 Cup Einkorn Flour*
¼ Cup + 1 tbsp almond flour**
2/3 Cup grated Parmesan
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
About 3 tbsp ice water
Anna Maria’s Radicchio Marmalade

*For a fully gluten-free recipe, switch to 1 cup gluten-free flour (I like cup-by-cup brand).
**For a nut-free version, replace the almond flour with the same amount of either Einkorn or gluten-free flour.

How to Prepare the Savory Crostata Crust:

Place flours, parmesan, salt and pepper into the food processor bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the butter has become cous cous size balls in the dry mix. While the machine is running, drizzle in the water until the dough becomes a ball.
Transfer the dough into a lightly floured surface and quickly form it into a flat disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour or up to a day.

To Bake:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the dough disk into 5 equal parts and roll them out to about 1/8 inch thickness and pat into 5 tart pans, cutting the dough flush at the edges.

Re-roll the remaining dough and form 5 decorative cookies.

Place a bowl of parchment paper into each tart and fill with baking weights. Bake the tarts and cookies until they turn slightly golden, they are only partly cooked at this point; 8 to 12 minutes for the tarts and 6 to 8 for the cookies.

To Fill:

This savory crust goes well with jam, vegetables, and even cheese.

Check out our recipe for Radicchio Marmalade Savory Tart using this savory crostata. 

Savory Crostata with Radicchio Marmalade | AnnaMaria's Foods

 

How to Enjoy a Crostata Like an Italian: Coffee or Tea?

There is a running joke in my family that I am a “broken Italian.”

As luck would have it, my mother’s water broke in Heathrow Airport on her way back to Italy and I was actually born in London. Call it coincidence, but to this day I never loved coffee the way my Italian family does. In fact, I have always preferred tea. 

And ever since, my nonna joked that I was a “broken Italian.” What can I say?!

Traditionally, we would enjoy a slice of crostata with a warm cup of caffé latte. And if you love coffee, you’ll love this pairing. But, if you happen to be a broken Italian like me, a nice cup of tea will do perfectly.

Dominique Debroux wishing you Buon Appetito | Anna Maria's Foods

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