Thursday, March 14, 2024

Amarena Cream Tart

If you've eaten torta della nonna, this tart may look familiar to you. Torta della nonna is made with two layers of pasta frolla (like a pie crust but enriched with egg), pastry cream in the center and pine nuts on top. Aside from substituting almonds for pine nuts, this tart also features amarena cherries punctuating the cream. Amarena cherries are nothing like the sweet, bright red maraschino cherries you see on ice cream sundaes, but are bitter cherries (amaro means bitter in Italian) that are soaked in a sweet syrup, giving the burgundy colored cherries a complex flavor that's a combo of bitter and sweet.

I always use the delicious amarene made by the Italian company Fabbri, although there are other manufacturers. They are easy to find where I live, (I got these at Costco) but if not, you can find them online. They're great over ice cream or in desserts like this one and they come in a beautiful container too -- a plus in my book. 

They're also wonderful in cocktails. After one of our granddaughters was born, we celebrated one night by concocting a pretty pink drink using gin, tonic water, amarenas and some of the syrup, dubbing it the eponymous "Izabela."

The recipe is the same as torta della nonna, except after placing the pastry cream inside the tart shell, you stud it everywhere with the cherries.

Place the second layer of pastry on top, beat with an egg wash, and sprinkle with slivered almonds. If you prefer, you can use pine nuts instead, as you would for torta della nonna.

Bake till golden brown.

Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and serve.
It would be perfect for your Easter table.

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Amarena Cream Tart
printable recipe here

Pastry - pasta frolla

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 t. vanilla or almond extract
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 or 3 T. ice water, if needed

Place the dry ingredients in a bowl or food processor, add the butter and mix until it looks like coarse sand. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the water) and mix only until it holds together. If it's too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of cold water until the mixture comes together. Do not over mix or your dough will be tough. Bring together into a ball.

Pastry Cream

2 cups whole milk
zest of one lemon (if you prefer not to use lemon, scrape the seeds from one vanilla bean into the milk or add 1/4 t. almond extract)
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour

Put the lemon zest and the milk into a large, heavy saucepan and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl or mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale yellow. Add the flour and whisk until well combined.

Remove the lemon zest from the saucepan and slowly add the hot milk into the egg mixture, a tiny bit at a time. If you add them too quickly, you'll scramble the eggs. Then return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens and starts to boil. If it gets lumpy, use a whisk, or even a hand-held stick blender to smooth it out.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, against the surface of the pastry cream, so it doesn't develop a "skin."Cool in refrigerator.

To Assemble:

3 dozen amarena cherries (or more if you like)
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Cut the dough in half and roll out one half into a disk shape. Fit it into a tart pan with a removable bottom. Place the pastry cream over the dough. Place the amarena cherries into the pastry cream.
Roll the second half of the dough into a disk and cover the pastry cream. Brush with a beaten egg that's been mixed with a tablespoon of water. Sprinkle almonds on top and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 35 to 40 minutes until browned on top. 

Note: You will have extra dough after trimming the tart. Don't throw it out. Gather it into a ball and freeze for another use. I like to roll out the leftover dough into a small disk and freeze it that way. Then when I feel like making a one-shell tart quickly, I take it from the freezer, let it thaw, and add some jam, or ricotta mixed with sugar and chocolate chips, bake it and you have a quick dessert.


  1. I don’t bake much but I’m saving this recipe! I love Amarena cherries.

    1. Thanks. I hope you do make it. Send a picture when you do.