It’s such a strange thing to be connected to a country that I wasn’t even born in; connected to provinces that have no place in childhood memories and regions that I have only encountered recently. I was not born in Italy, I did not grow up in Italy and yet I am constantly yearning for it, as though it were my home.
I am a person who deeply values tradition and family. I celebrate my family’s Italian roots and understand that although I do, and always will, call Australia my home, I will always be deeply connected to the country where my family originates. It is, for lack of a better phrase, where it all began.
Whenever I feel nostalgic for my ‘second home’ I feel that cooking lessens the gap.
Whenever I cook something with an Italian influence, a dish that perhaps I watched my Grandmother or Mother make, or even just something with a ‘Mediterranean flair’ I feel as though it connects me to those that I love. When I make this simple, uncomplicated food, I am transported to days spent watching my Mum roll out pasta dough, or admiring my Nanna throw together the best lunch ever at a moment’s notice.
When I came across the blog “Italy on my mind”, I could really relate to the stories and experiences that Paola, the writer, shares with her audience. Her motto “In food there are memories” struck a chord and encouraged me to reflect.
The simple smell of Zeppole being cooked at my nanna’s house reminds me of many a Christmas Eve spent together, devouring those delicious donuts. The sound of an oyster being shucked brings back a clear image of my dear Nonno, standing over the kitchen sink, knife in hand, opening each tightly sealed shell with much patience so that his family could enjoy its contents.
In every get together, birthday, Christmas or even Sunday lunch, food plays a central role for my family. Because of this, tastes, smells and even certain sounds of food bring back incredibly poignant memories of people and places.
I found this scrumptious ‘Crostata di Pere’ on Paola’s lovely blog. Making and eating it brought me back to days spent with my family in Italy, enjoying every bite of food coming out of my cousin’s kitchen. It has become an immediate favourite in our house and a dessert that will certainly make it to the table during special family gatherings.
Perhaps I will never be able to call Italy my ‘home’, but I feel content knowing that I will always be connected to that extraordinary country through my family and through food. I hope you enjoy this pear tart as much as I did and I hope it brings you many happy memories!
Crostata di Pere
125g plain flour
30g caster sugar
110g butter, cut into cubes, cold from the fridge
1/2 tsp salt
1 tblsp cold milk or water
one to one and a half pears, thinly sliced in wedges
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon plain flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
zest of half a lemon
Put the sugar and flour in a bowl. Add the butter and incorporate using the tines of a fork (or use your fingers). The mixture will be crumbly and don’t worry if there are a few chunks of butter visible – this is a rustic pie. Sprinkle on the salt and milk and knead it a couple of times until the mixture is cohesive. Place the ball of pastry on a sheet of cling wrap. Place a second sheet of cling wrap over the pastry and using the heel of your hand, flatten it. Now use a rolling pin and make a rough circle with the pastry, with a diameter of about 30cm. Place the pastry in the fridge (still covered by the two sheets of cling film). Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
When the pastry is resting in the fridge, mix the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, 1 tsp plain flour and 1 tblsp cater sugar in a medium sized bowl. Toss the thin slices of pear in the mixture and set aside.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and briefly roll it out and shape it further if needed. Working quickly, arrange the slices of fruit in the centre of the pastry leaving a 5 cm border of pastry around the edges. You can make an inner circle of small pear segments as well depending on the size that you have rolled out your pastry. When you have placed all the fruit, fold over the pastry edges and scatter a bit of sugar over the pastry border.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the pastry edges are golden. Cool on a wire rack. It is best eaten at room temperature.
Recipe from Italy on my mind