Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A savory tart

Growing up, I never ate savory tarts. My mother never made them. She always prepared the traditional Greek pies with thin or rustic phyllo, or even puff pastry, filled with Greek cheeses, spinach or horta, different types of wild greens that grow on Greek mountains.

Tarts were something I discovered in my early teenage years, when I started cooking on my own and wanted to try new things. The first tart I ever made was a French one with chicken, chicken livers and mushrooms, which was a complete disaster. It was tasty but it didn't quite resemble a tart.

Ever since that first attempt, I have made my fair share of savory tarts and it even came to the point where I would be confident enough to proudly present my well-baked and flavorful creations to the Sunday family lunch. However, in all honesty, I have always preferred the traditional Greek pies. I've always considered them a superior kind of pie.

The fact that I'm not a huge fan of savory tarts is quite evident here in this blog of mine. If you have ever browsed through the recipe index, you may have noticed that I don't have a lot of savory tart recipes there. Well, except for one which is actually a recipe for phyllo individual tartlets (which by the way are amazing).

Still, every so often, a recipe for a tart just catches my eye and I can't help but wanting to try it. That is the case with this one; a deserving one, a savory tart that is undoubtedly great; a prosciutto and taleggio tart with a polenta crust.

Prosciutto, taleggio, polenta; even the sound of these three ingredients makes my taste buds tingle with excitement. The crust of this tart is made with butter, parmesan cheese, and polenta—Italian cornmeal—,which gives the crust a pale yellow hue. The filling is made with prosciutto, an Italian dry-cured ham that is salty and delicious, and taleggio cheese, an Italian semi-hard, raw cow's milk cheese.

Taleggio is one of the oldest cheeses of Lombardy, dating as far back as the 9th century when it was first made in the area of Val Taleggio, and it has a spicy, nutty and fresh aroma. It's a rather fatty cheese, with 48% fat, and it has an excellent melting quality, which makes it ideal for risotto and pizza.

The crust is buttery, crispy and rich and when you bite into it, the polenta makes its presence known in between your teeth with its crunchy texture. The taleggio and parmesan give a pleasant saltiness to the tart, that balances perfectly with the meatiness of the prosciutto.

The custard in the filling is light, and the lemon zest on top adds a much needed acidic flavor that cuts through the rich quality of the cheeses. The roasted hazelnuts, that decorate and finish off the tart, add a beautiful nuttiness and crunch to it.

I may not be a lover of all things tart, but this is one I'm recommending you make. Oh yes, please do. You'll thank me later.

Prosciutto and Taleggio Tart with a Polenta and Parmesan Crust
Adapted from Delicious magazine

This is ideal for a brunch or lunch, served with leafy greens or a radicchio salad, but it is also perfect for a dinner party, cut into small pieces and served as a starter.

In keeping with the Italian-ingredients theme, accompany the tart with a robust Italian red wine, such as a Barbaresco or Barolo or, if you want to be a little more adventurous, with a Greek Xinomavro.

Update: After questions on the Greek page of my blog about substituting taleggio cheese (which can be hard to find in some parts of the world), I would like to suggest the following combinations of cheeses for substituting the taleggio: 1) fontina and a little blue cheese, 2) a soft Greek kaseri and a little blue cheese, 3) camembert or brie and a little blue cheese.

Yield: 1 large tart / 8-10 pieces


for the dough
225 g all-purpose flour
75 g polenta (or cornmeal)
½ tsp salt
150 g cold unsalted butter, diced, plus extra for greasing the pan
1 medium-sized egg yolk
25 g grated parmesan

for the filling
150 g prosciutto in slices, coarsely chopped
1 large garlic clove, coarsely chopped
30 ml (2 Tbsp) olive oil
1 red onion (around 80 g), finely chopped
200 g sour cream
2 medium-sized egg yolks
160 g taleggio cheese, rind cut off, sliced

40 g whole hazelnuts, skins removed
Zest of 1 medium-sized lemon
A little freshly ground black pepper

Special equipment: large food processor (optional), small food processor, box grater, rolling pin, cling film, fluted tart pan with removable bottom (rectangular 11x34 cm and 3 cm deep or round 26 cm in diameter and 3 cm deep), baking paper, pie weights (like dried rice or beans)


Prepare the dough
• with a food processor
In a large food processor (this is the one I use), add the flour, the polenta and the salt, followed by the cubed cold butter, and let the machine run, until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and grated parmesan, and mix until the dough comes together into a ball. If the mixture is too dry and it doesn't seem to come together, add 1-2 Tbsp ice water and mix again, until you have a smooth, pliable dough.

• without a food processor
In a large bowl, add the flour, the polenta and the salt, and stir with a spatula. Add the cubed cold butter and, using two knives or a pastry cutter (this is the one I use) or even your fingertips, cut it into the flour, until you have a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and grated parmesan and mix with your hands, working quickly, until the dough comes together into a ball. If the mixture is too dry and it doesn't seem to come together, add 1-2 Tbsp ice water and knead again slightly, until you have a smooth, pliable dough.

Take the ball of dough and, if you're using a rectangular-shaped tart pan, form the dough into a flattened-rectangular shape. If you're using a round tart pan, form the dough into a flattened-disk shape. Wrap it well with cling film and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Rolling out the dough
Take the dough out of the fridge and place it in between two large sheets of cling film. This will ensure that once you have rolled it out, it won't break when you try to move it. Roll it out, using a rolling pin, to a ½ cm-thick rectangle (if using a rectangular pan) or circle (if using a round pan). The size of the rolled-out dough must be larger than that of the tart pan.

Butter the bottom and sides of the tart pan. Remove the cling film that lies on top of the dough, slide your hand underneath the cling film at the bottom of the dough and transfer the dough, inverting it into the pan and being careful not to tear it. Remove the cling film that is now on top of the dough and press the dough gently to fit the pan, still being careful not to tear it. Using the back of a knife, cut the excess dough that's hanging around the edges of the pan and prick the dough all over with a fork. Place the pan in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. This will ensure that the dough will not shrink when baked.

Note: In case you have left-over dough, you can keep it in the freezer, wrapped in cling film or in a ziploc bag, for up to a month. Thaw it and use it to make smaller tarts.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Line the bottom and sides of the dough with a large enough piece of baking paper and fill it with pie weights, dried rice or beans. Place the pan on the bottom rack of the oven and bake the crust for 12 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven, remove the baking paper along with the pie weights and bake for another 8-10 minutes, until the dough is golden-brown and crispy.

Remove the pan from the oven and turn heat down to 180 degrees Celsius.

Prepare the filling
In the meantime, prepare the filling so that it will be ready when the tart crust has finished baking.
In a small food processor (or the same one you used for the dough), add the prosciutto, the garlic and 15 ml (1 Tbsp) of the olive oil. Process, until finely chopped and blended.

In a small frying pan, add the remaining 15 ml (1 Tbsp) of olive oil and heat over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the finely chopped red onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, until it softens. Turn heat off and allow the onion to cool.
Spread the prosciutto mixture on the base of the baked crust and sprinkle with the sautéed red onion.

In a medium-sized bowl, add the 2 egg yolks and beat them lightly with a fork. Add the sour cream and mix well. Pour the mixture over the tart.

Note: You might be tempted to add salt to the egg mixture or the onions but don't! There is enough salt in the prosciutto and cheeses.

Place the sliced taleggio on top and return the pan to the oven, placing it on the middle rack this time. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the filling has just firmed up and set.

In the meantime, place the hazelnuts in a small frying pan and toast them over medium heat, stirring often so they don't catch, until they take on a golden-brown color and start releasing their oils. Then chop them coarsely.

Once the tart is ready, take it out of the oven and allow it to slightly cool on a wire rack. Remove the sides of the pan, add the chopped hazelnuts on top, sprinkle with the lemon zest and add some freshly ground black pepper.

Cut the tart into pieces and serve warm.

You can keep the tart, lightly covered, at room temperature, for a day.


  1. Taleggio and polenta?!?!? I love this! AND I have to replicate it ASAP!

  2. What a stunning tart! I'm not a huge fan of savoury ones either since I find the crust often too heavy or greasy but a polenta one sounds wonderful.

  3. I've always loved savory tarts. This one really looks scrumptious!



  4. Totally drooled over keyboard. All my favorite things! Tallegio is one of my favorite cheeses, and to think with al these other ingredients... too many good things! Glad this tart made your cut. I will have to try it.

  5. Your tart tin is very cute: the rectangular shape is so elegant, and the crust looks baked to perfection. I have a round and a square tin. I love the way the square one looks, but the center comes always out underbaked. Probably the rectangular shape is the right solution.
    The filling looks so tasty, but I agree with you, I prefer simple (and lighter!) pies in general.

  6. Ah...what an absolutely beautiful savory tart. The crust with polenta looks hearty and delicate at the same time. Savory tarts, cheesecakes, pies..they are all on my list of favorites. Taleggio is one of my most loved cheeses as well and not often used in recipes that I have run across, but this is a perfect combination of flavors. Lovely.

  7. Denise — thanks, I'm glad you like it.

    PolaM — please do. You'll love it!

    Emily Vanessa — yes, my feelings exactly. This one is not a light one, yet it's among my favorites.

    Rosa — thank you!

    Banana Wonder — yay! More people who love taleggio.

    lacaffettierarosa — I also have a square one; I baked a sweet tart in it once and I haven't used it since. The problem was exactly what you said; not baked enough in the center. The rectangular one is the best in my opinion, and quite elegant :)

    Teresa — oh thank you! I haven't seen a lot of recipes using taleggio either. It's a shame, it's such a flavorful cheese. I love it on pizza.

  8. Thank you, Magda! You can be sure I will be making this one soon! What a perfect thing to serve for a light supper in the garden! ~ David

  9. Wow! I would love a large slice , please, with a glass of chianti or something equally good. Got to try that cheese now! will hunt it down in the Italian deli here in Beirut

  10. WoWoWoWoW!!!! Dreamy is the correct word! Wow! That looks absolutely incredibly delicious! WoW! And the crust looks like the type that I'm totally in love with. Will need to try this one at some point, if I'm feeling brave. Or you could just invite me over for dinner? Wish I had friends that cooked like you ;) hehehehe....

  11. Look at that tart! So creamy! I am not unusually a fan of savoury tart. but I'd love this.

  12. I make savory tarts just like the next person, but I am not in love with them either. I had to actually get into your post to truly appreciate it... it actually sounds incredible. I love all the ingredients (although the taleggio in your recipe does not really look like the taleggio we get here in Lombardy, which had a bright orange crust - you however described its flavor and qualities perfectly). This is why I always trust my favorite food bloggers: even if they post something that doesn't really catch my eye (althought your photography and tart are beautiful, don't get me wrong) it is always worthwhile to read through.

  13. This looks wonderful! I haven't had any of the main ingredients of the tart (as far as I know!), and I've wanted to get a square tart pan for a while so maybe it's a good thing to have this recipe bookmarked :)

  14. This tart looks insane! ;-) I love taleggio, and the combi with prosciutto, polenta and nuts sounds like heaven... too bad I'm off dairy for a while. I'll be saving the recipe for later!
    Love the rectangular pan too.

  15. I love the flavor combinations you use here Magda. I especially love the addition of polenta. It looks amazing. Hope you're doing well.

  16. Your pastry looks divine! You must have a lot of patience. The Greeks are credited with inventing the pie you know...

  17. I do enjoy savory tarts, and your polenta crust is what has really captured my attention in this beautiful post. I can't wait to try that. Thanks, Magda!

  18. You can be sure I will try this! Thank you for the inspiration :-)