Semolina and Marsala tart is a recipe that tastes of family, memories, and pine forest.
As a child, I spent all my summers at the seaside.
The destination was always the Riviera Romagnola. What changed over the years were the villages where we rented a house for the season.
And although I am fond of all the seaside villages where I spent my summers, I loved the ones with pine forests the most.
Pine trees of Romagna
I did not know the beauty of the woods by the seaside when they were still home to holm oaks, many varieties of pine trees, and hawthorn trees. In any case, the grandeur of the pine trees, reaching 30 meters in height, was enough to impress and capture evermore the mind and heart of a little girl who always loved to make up stories.
I wrote about the importance of reading to feed the spirit. You can read it in this newsletter, Something Personal.
Ps: Are you subscribed? You get my letters twice a month, plus a few specials devoted to the Via Emilia. I write about history, cooking, and memoirs.
I was impressed by the absence of noise, muffled by a carpet of sand and pine needles, the fragrance of resin, and the scents of the underbrush. Again, the play of light created by the sun’s rays penetrated the tall branches down to the ground. The majesty of the trees was stunning.
I loved walking through the pine forest, catching a glimpse from afar of the sea that exploded before my eyes, and spending time there.
One day, a heavy thunderstorm burst.
When it ended, Grandma said, let’s go. And holding hands, we walked toward the pine forest.
I learned then that the smell of the pine trees after a thunderstorm is one of the best, on par with the fragrant scent of a freshly baked loaf. The penetrating plant essences envelop and enchant the unwary patron, just as it must have happened to Odysseus’ sailors when the Sirens sang to them.
After the storm, under the branches, the drip continued incessantly and made the pine needles glisten like spun glass. Occasionally, the sun penetrated the mystery of the pine forest. And then those sudden flashes of light that lit up the trees and made the drops look like so many fatal fires. The soggy, damp ground smoked and bubbled as if it had been the lid of a volcano.
The pine forest after the rain impressed me so much.
Perhaps it was because of the impression of entering not a wood but a huge regal hall. I was walking under a dome, sparkling with rain crystals on a soft carpet that the logs framed like an arcade.
Pine nut harvesting
Nonna knew how to make me happy, and at the same time, she was a pragmatic woman.
For her, the pine forest after the rain meant two things: respite from the summer heat, which, in Romagna, is often accompanied by high humidity even at the sea. And harvesting of bladder campions, please look at the vegetarian risotto I made with them and pine nuts.
The perfect time to harvest the second ones is after a storm.
The storm shakes the tall foliage of the pine trees that produce the edible seeds, letting the pine cones fall to the ground, which otherwise would not be reachable.
I had just discovered the magic of the rain-soaked pine forest when Granny, handing me a paper bag, explained that I had a particular task.
I needed to harvest all the pine cones I could find and the pine nuts that had fallen at the base of the trunk.
Since I was a little girl, I found that assignment more fun than tiring. Today, I suppose it would be the contrary.
After the harvesting, once home, we would open the pine cones together.
Lastly, using a rock or a hammer, I would gently break the shell of the pine nuts, being careful to preserve the delicate seeds. And pass them to Grandma, who would remove the outer film before storing them in glass jars.
Pine nuts are precious treasures of sea and land. And not just because of the cost. Even nature seems aware of their value since she preserves them in the pine cone, each wrapped in an outer wooden shell and an amber film that looks like tissue paper.
Again, pine nuts must mature for three years in the pine cone.
Harvesting them is just as tiring as cleaning them.
Now, perhaps, it is easier to understand the reason why they cost so much.
Can I get pine nuts from any pine tree?
If you are in the West, you are mostly looking for two types, both called piñons. In Italy you find different kind of pine trees.
A semolina tart with pine nuts
The aroma of Marsala added to the pastry dough enhances the flavor of the filling.
Semolina was an ingredient that was never missing in the house and that grandmother used very often.
Pine nuts, on the other hand, were a gift of summer in the middle of winter.
The resinous, spicy aroma of the pine nut, which you will find coarsely chopped in the filling and on the surface of the pie, turns a recipe as simple as a tart special.
Remember to boil the semolina in the milk for a few minutes, long enough for the liquid to shrink.
This step is important to prevent the semolina, which is heavier, from settling to the bottom of the pastry while the milk remains on the surface when baking.
Buona cucina, Monica
Keep in Touch
- To receive unpublished recipes, tips, and food stories, sign up for the Tortellini&CO newsletter.
- Follow me onInstagram, Pinterest and Facebook.
Marsala and semolina tart with pine nuts recipe
- 1 25 cm round mold diameter
For the shortcrust pastry
- 80 g butter
- 180 g all purpose flour
- 80 g sugar
- 2 eggs
- 30 g dry Marsala wine
For the filling
- 100 g pine nuts
- 400 ml milk
- 100 g semolina
- 50 g butter
- 60 g sugar
- 2 eggs
For the shortcrust pastry
- Cut cold butter into small cubes and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar and mix.
- Then add butter, whole eggs, and Marsala.
- Knead the ingredients, trying to use your fingertips so as not to overheat the butter, just long enough to make a smooth, even dough. You can combine all the ingredients into a food processor.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 1 hours.
For the filling
- Coarsely chop half the pine nuts with a knife and set aside. Keep the other half aside to decorate the surface.
- Pour 300 ml of milk into a saucepan, add the semolina,and bring to a boil. Immediately turn down the heat and, stirring, thicken for3 minutes.
- Turn off, move the pan from the stove, add the sugar and chopped butter, and stir.
- When the cream is lukewarm, add and mix with 100 ml cold milk, and then add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating them while stirring.
- Add chopped pine nuts and mix.
- Preheat the oven to 180C degrees/356F.
- Roll out the shortbread to a height of about ½ cm between two sheets of baking paper.
- Arrange the shortcrust pastry in the baking pan, greased or lined with baking paper, and gently shape it into the mold.
- Run a knife around the edge of the tart tin to cutaway any excess pastry.
- Pour in the semolina cream, decorate the surface with whole pine nuts, and bake in a hot oven for about 35 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
- Remove from oven, let cool, and sprinkle with powdered sugar if you like.
- Store the tart covered outside the refrigerator. It will keep for many days.