Tortine alle Carote e Porri. One look at this beautiful savory tart of pureed carrot and sauteed leeks over pastry, and I was captivated by the magazine picture. For many months I thought my Cooking Italy group should be treated to some optional recipes from this magazine.
Now on first looks, you might thing I’m talking about Martha Stewart, as she often offers smashing, elegant food. (I am a Martha lover and I admit it). But, no, I’m referring to La Cucina Italiana, Italy’s premier food and cooking magazine. I have no stake in promotion; but, if you are the least bit curious about learning to cook regional, authentic, approachable, yet exquisite Italian food, then do subscribe. The food is gorgeously photographed with a modern, stylish viewpoint, which is also very Italian.
Simple carrots, leeks, pastry and one key ingredient that takes this from anything French or American and puts it assuredly in the Italian camp. Parmigiano-regianno is THE cheese of Italy, in that no matter how different each region prepares food, it is parmigano-regianno that brings Italian cuisine together.
You probably already know how special this cheese is, in that like many Italian ingredients, it is protected under Italian law and must come from Parma, Modena, Reggio Emilia, Bologna and Mantova. It is a hard cheese, made from cow’s grass-fed milk. Parmigiano is the adjective for Parma. You may also know parmigiano by the french word, parmesan, but be careful when you see cheese named parmesan. You might not be getting what you think your are. I know you don’t purchase the green can, but even the pre-grated cheeses that have an Italian name and appear freshly grated all to often have no flavor, no bite and will not do your dish any justice. Inferior imitations may be legally sold in the United States under the name parmesan, so don’t be fooled.
Not Just Any Cheese
There is a difference in the “real” cheese and the many imposters. The best way to be assured that you are eating authentic parmigiano-regianno, that has passed strict inspection is to buy it with the rind on, which will be stamped with the words parmigano regianno, and grate it as you need it, taking it out to sit at room temperature first. The real deal should be and is good enough to eat as a table cheese and is perfectly paired with pears.
This recipe allows for a choice between parmigiano-regianno and grana padano. Grana is also from Northern Italy, made in the Po Valley. It is a semi-hard cheese, less salty, less pungent, than parmigiano-regianno, and often used for that very reason, where one does not want the dish overpowered. The cows that produce both cheeses graze in different valleys and this also causes a distinct difference in taste. Parmigiano-Regianno is made with a mix of skim milk and whole milk, while the Grana is made with partially skim milk. Italy can produce more of grana padano, so it will be less expensive.
Both cheeses are loved for their texture, flavor and the way they melt. They do not get stringy or gooey and can be easily added to so many dishes, including hot soups.
Why am I making such a fuss about the cheese? There is a cup and half of cheese in this recipe, making it a key ingredient. The wrong cheese or one of those imposters could result in a bad experience.
I am providing the recipe with a few shortcuts and changes. Next time, I would bring the pastry all the way up the sides and I would skip the breadcrumbs, so I’m going to give you the adaptation of the recipe in the way I would prefer it.
This is a lovely side dish to a protein, or a perfect choice for a light supper or lunch with a salad
- Use 4 fluted individual tart pans or one large tart pan
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoons fine sea salt
- 4 T unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons blanched slivered almonds
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon ice water
- Combine flour and salt. Add butter until mixed. Add almonds, egg yolks until almonds, then ice water. Knead until smooth, form into disc, wrap in plastic, refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
- Place parchment paper on bottom of tart pans and butter. Roll out dough, bring up the sides. LCI suggests to not bring up the sides, but I prefer this. Use a fork to make a few holes in pastry.
- FILLING INGREDIENTS
- 2 pounds organic carrots, washed, peeled and cut into coins
- 2 large leeks, washed, trimmed, using white parts only, sliced lengthwise and sliced
- Few sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 leafy sprigs flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
- Fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for tart pans
- 1½ cups freshly grated parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese, divided 1 cup and ½ cup
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- For Filling:
- Slice carrots into coins. Place sprigs of thyme over carrots and steam until cooked through, but not mushy. Reserve 2 T of hot water used for steaming. (You can also boil carrots, submersing in water. I Set 1 cup of coins aside to top the tarts. Make sure you have enough to cover the top of the tart. Saute sliced leeks in olive oil. Add salt.
- Puree carrots (except those reserved to top tart) with 1 cup parmgiano-regianno, salt, pepper, eggs, chopped parsley.
- Once dough is pressed into tart pans, layer with leeks, carrot puree, carrot coins. Top with remaining cheese. Bake until tarts are set, about 25 minutes at 350.
- Note: There was marjoram in filling; I deleted. There was a layer of breadcrumbs on bottom of tart. I found this to be unnecessary.