One of the cities I had the pleasure of visiting on my Italy trip was Parma. Food wise Parma and the surrounding area is known primarily for it’s cured meats. There is pancetta, salami, culatello, coppa, and more. But the city is also in the Emilia Romagna region so there is also amazing handmade pasta, plenty of traditional balsamic vinegar, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Meaning that obvi Parma=Awesome.
Our first stop was Antica Corte Pallavicina which is a fully functional farm, hotel, and restaurant. The kitchen is run by Michelin starred Chef Massimo Spigaroli. Antica Corte Pallavicina also happens to be world famous for it’s cured meats. The rich and famous around the world (royalty, rock stars, and business moguls) all have reserved some of Antica Corte’s best culatello. If you ever happen to visit, not only will you have an amazing meal at the restaurant, but you can also take a tour of the cellars where the royal culatello ages.
Our next stop was our hotel (the Grand Hotel de La Ville) in Parma proper to drop off our luggage. We then got to walk the city and explore! Which is always one of the best parts of a trip. Though if I’m 100% honest I was a little nervous about wandering off by myself. I have the worst sense of direction in the entire universe. Like I end up in Wyoming when I’m trying to get to Aurora (Colorado), as in I end up in the wrong state. It’s scary people. (And that’s only a slight exaggeration!) But, I wandered with another writer who has a much better sense of direction then I did. The city was gorgeous! And I made it back to my hotel safe and sound. :)
That evening we had an Aperitivo at Teatro Regio (the local opera house).
Then we had dinner at Trattoria del Ducato a very traditional family owned restaurant. The ravioli, stuffed with homemade ricotta, and served in a brown butter and sage sauce were so good. (I promise I’ll share a recipe for this dish at some point as well.) They also made a very lovely, super moist apple cake.
The next day we did a short walking tour with a local guide, Sara, who was very knowledgeable and lovely. We were able to check out some amazing historical landmarks.
Then we had brunch at the T Cafe located in the Palazzo della Rosa Prati (a former palace). The building sits along the duomo, or city square. Right across the way sits Parma Cathedral an absolutely stunning building!
Inside also happens to be an important fresco by Renaissance painter Antonio da Correggio. I had to break out my rusty art history skills but Correggio was a pretty significant painter and his work was a major shifting point moving the art of the time forward by leaps and bounds.
But, back to that brunch. The food at the T Cafe? Wonderful. We had several quiche like dishes called torta, filled with various vegetables. There were tiny cupcakes, filled croissants, and very good cappuccino. There was also “big toast” which us Americans might call grilled cheese.
Plus, a plum crostata. I had been really interested to try a crostata while I was in Italy, because on Food 52 and other American foodie sites I had always seen a crostata described as the Italian galette. I adore galettes so I was really curious to find out if they actually tasted all that similar and what the differences were. I usually find Food 52 to be a great source of information, but, I’ve gotta say they missed the mark on this one. A galette and a crostata are totally different things. I think you could probably say they are food cousins, but that’s about it.
Now a galette is really a free form tart (check out my post here if your curious about galettes). A Crostata is not free form at all, but a very neat and pretty tart with a lattice-ish top.
Both are filled with fruit. Though a crostata seems to be specifically with jam or fruit preserves.
I also found the crust to be quite different as well. A galette crust in my mind is fairly similar to pie crust. It’s flaky, buttery, but sturdy enough to hold in all that fruit filling. A crostata crust reads a lot more like a shortbread. Very buttery, but definitely more dense then a galette crust. It actually kind of reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas cookies.
Regardless of any similarities or differences I still completely adore galettes; but crostatas are definitely my current fave. I, of course, absolutely had to recreate a crostata one I made it home!
I looked first to Marcalla Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, my go to cookbook for all things Italian; but unfortunately she doesn’t have a recipe for crostata included. Fortunately, I happened to stumble upon a sour cherry crostata recipe from the rather famous food writer Ruth Reichl, in her cookbook My Kitchen Year. Ruth Reichl knows food, so I figured working from her dough recipe would be a good bet. And indeed it payed off. Her dough recipe is amazingly buttery in that perfect way, with just the right balance of sweet. (Secret: I actually found her dough to be even better then the ones I tasted in Italy!)
I decided to go for an apple crostata rather then recreating the plum I sampled in Italy since plum season is O-V-E-R here in Denver, but the apples are looking crisp and lovely! In my recipe I’ve included two different types of apple fillings, because on some of my test runs I went for apple slices rather then making a jam filling and ended up liking it quite a lot though it’s not exactly traditional crostata. Actually, even in my “jam” like filling I left my apples in slices, and only cooked them for a short while because I really wanted a little texture and not just mush. Feel free to substitute your favorite preserves instead of either of my fillings if you prefer.
So, with these little tweaks I won’t tell you this recipe is 100% authentic Italian, it’s definitely my re-creation, but the final results did turn out similar enough to what I had in Italy that I feel perfectly ok calling it a crostata. I’ll even tell you I’m really pleased with how it turned out (ok after a few different attempts anyway). The final version will be making a frequent appearance at my house from now on… especially with the holidays coming up. I hope you enjoy as well!
Michelle’s Apple Crostata– Yields one tart. Crust adapted from Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year.
- 1 and 1/2 sticks butter
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- pinch of sea salt
- 2 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- Prepare a tart pan with a removable bottom by greasing with spray oil or butter and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375*.
- Cream together the butter and sugar using either an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer. Add the egg and vanilla and blend in throughly using the mixer. Add the pinch of sea salt, and flour about 1/2 cup at a time and mix, making sure all the flour is well incorporated before adding the next half cup. When all the flour has been incorporated, use your hands to shape two disks. Wrap each dish is wax paper and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Roll out each disk in-between two sheets of wax paper. Each disk should roll out into about a 12″ circle. Return to the refrigerator, still in between the wax paper to chill again for about 5 minutes before moving on to the next step.
- Gently remove the wax paper from one 12″ round. Gently drape it lightly over the prepared tart pan, trim the outside to 1 /2 inch and fold inward, then press against side of pan to create the edge. Use a fork to gently poke several holes in the bottom of the crust, without piercing all the way through. Bake the bottom crust until pale golden, 15 to 20 minutes, this will prevent the filling from making the bottom of the crust soggy. Cool the crust in pan on a rack, about 30 minutes. While the bottom crust is baking and cooling prepare one of the two fillings below.
Filling Choice One- Apple Slices
- 4-6 Granny Smith apples depending on size
- 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Peel and core the apples. Slice each apple into about 16 even pieces. Place all cut apples into a bowl toss with the lemon juice, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Allow the apples to sit and macerate in the juice and sugar until the bottom crust has cooled.
OR Filling Choice Two- Apple “Jam”
- 2 cups of cold water
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4-6 Granny Smith apples depending on size
- Peel and core the apples. Slice each apple into about 16 even pieces.
- In a large pot pour water and add cornstarch. Whisk in the cornstarch so there are no lumps. Add sugar, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla, stir well.
- Place pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Stir in apples. Simmer apple mixture for 6-10 minutes until the apples are just soft but not mushy. Allow apples to cool before moving on to the assembly instructions..
Assembly & Baking
- 1 egg
- a splash of water
- When the bottom crust is cool (and the filling is cool, if you’ve selected the apple “jam” cooked filling) you can assemble the crostata. Fill the bottom crust with your selected filling. If using the apple slices be sure to drain off any excess liquid before adding the apples to the crust. It’s also nice to make a spiral pattern with the apples if using the slices. If using the “jam” filling use a spoon to fill the crust and smooth the filling out so it sits evenly.
- Pull the second 12″ round rolled out earlier in the crust stage. Use a pastry or pasta cutter to cut 8 about 1″ wide strips. Place the strips on top of the filling evenly spaces, four diagonally four horizontally. You can follow an over-under-over pattern with the strips if you like to create a lattice effect. Trim any excess dough that falls over the sides of the tart pan.
- In a small bowl wis together the egg and slash of water to form an egg wash. Brush lightly over the lattice strips.
- Bake the tart at 375* for 35-45 minutes until the top is golden brown. If the sides of the crust begin to get to brown but the top lattice is not yet cooked enough, use foil to cover the edges.
- Allow the tart to cool in the pan for one hour before removing from the tart pan.
Note: This trip was fully paid for by Emilia Romagna Region Tourist Board. However, any opinions expressed here are my own.