TSP Original: Margherita Tart with Basil-Parmesan Crust
MUSIC PAIRING: Funk Outta Here Playlist on Spotify
It’s been a while since I brought you one of my own creations. See, I’ve been stuffing my face with things like fries and pasta lately so I’ve had some kitchen – and brain if we’re being honest – lethargy. I mean, it’s much easier to go out for tremendous fusilli pasta with spicy sausage at Il Vagabondo than it is to come up with my own thing.
Creating recipes is tough. It takes patience, an open mind, confidence and the ability to laugh at your mistakes. There are some days where I feel like it’s a dream and on others, it’s a chore. I used to think that I wanted to do recipe development for a living but honestly, it’s far more fun to do it as a hobby vs. relying on it to pay my bills. The reason I do it at all is to keep that momentum of creativity flowing that I learned in culinary school. Cooking is just like any other formed habit that needs to be consistently practiced in order to stay sharp and motivated.
I made a tart similar to this a few years ago and have been craving it ever since. Whoever decided that buttery crusts aren’t just for dessert is a genius, by the way. I’m pretty sure any combination of flour and butter, be it sweet or savory, is what god was referring to when he spoke of ‘manna from heaven’.
For this crust, I used a healthy bunch of fresh basil and parmesan to boost and highlight the buttery deliciousness. I had a good bit leftover once pressing it into my tart pan so I used a small biscuit cutter to make little crackers which were terrific.
The filling is light but hearty with a wonderful earthiness from the fresh thyme. I ate a few too many spoonfuls while filling the tart shell. #noregrets
To illustrate how much I cared about this tart, I’ll have you know that I lugged it all the way to work to bake it because my oven broke. Yes, we have an oven at work and yes, it saved me from losing my dang mind over what would’ve been a waste of a lot of money on ingredients because NYC grocery store prices blow. The only drawback was I forgot my other tomatoes at home so the top would obviously look so much better fully covered with tomatoes instead of sparingly placed.
I made this tart for a friend in town whom I’d never cooked for before. He was totally impressed and I honestly was, too. All the flavors meld together and create this rich, beautiful bite that makes you feel like the freshness of Summer and comfort of Fall collided. Also, those tomatoes when they roast and reduce down…holy moly. They’re spectacular. The best thing about this tart is that it looks like you slaved over it when you didn’t. It’s the perfect thing to bring to a potluck or a brunch when you want to impress your friends. I can guarantee that every single person will thank you. A few times over.
Why Funk? I LOVE funk music. I can’t tell you many artists and I don’t know a ton about it but I love it. After watching the Foo Fighters Sonic Highways series on HBO, I’ve got a crazy new appreciation for styles of music that I haven’t always been into like funk and even punk. I’ve now made this playlist a reoccurring daily theme in my life and kitchen.
Recipe by: Valerie Albanese
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves and stems
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons ice water, more/less as needed
- 2 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 teaspoon half and half
- Zest from 1 small lemon
- 1 egg yolk
- 16 ounces grated whole milk mozzarella
- 3-4 large ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil for drizzling
- Slice your tomatoes and put in a bowl or ziploc bag. Add a healthy drizzling of olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper and set aside in the fridge to marinate. Do not salt yet, you'll do that later. You can prepare your tomatoes the day before like I did to really get that olive oil flavor infused overnight.
- Make your crust. Combine flour, salt and parmesan cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Add butter and pulse until butter is incorporated and mixture resembles coarse sand.
- Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing to combine. The dough is done when it begins to come together in a big, shaggy ball. Don't add any more water than absolutely necessary.
- Turn out pastry onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- Remove pastry from fridge and roll into a 1/4-inch thick disk. Carefully transfer to an 11 or 12-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Trim edges, folding over excess dough to form a slightly raised edge. Crimp as desired. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Make your filling. In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta, parmesan, oregano, thyme, half and half, lemon zest, egg yolk, one teaspoon of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Taste to be sure it's seasoned well and add more kosher salt as needed. Grate your mozzarella if you aren't using pre-shredded.
- Remove the tart shell and tomatoes from the fridge and spread ricotta filling evenly over the shell. Season the tomatoes with a couple of pinches of kosher salt. Spread grated mozzarella evenly over ricotta mixture. Arrange tomatoes on top of the filling and pour whatever olive oil and tomato juice remains in the bowl over the top.
- Bake for 50 minutes until the tomatoes have shrunken down. If the center is still jiggling and there is a lot of tomato juice still present, increase your oven heat to 400 and bake in ten minute increments until the filling is set and juice has evaporated. Allow your tart to cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting into it. That might be the hardest part.
- I always always always buy blocks of cheese and grate them myself instead of the pre-packaged shredded stuff. The coating they use to keep the cheese from sticking together in those packages is just gross and always adds an unwanted grittiness to dishes. Grating cheese is simple, folks. Take that extra step and I promise, you'll be glad you did.