CARMELA HAYES COLUMN: Custard delight provides a slice of tasty nostalgia

Holding a strong similarity to the famous and much-loved cinnamon speckled and dusted custard tart, the ‘torta della nonna’ has the added joy of a baked pine-nut topping with an almost sun-kissed finish, writes Carmela Hayes.

Thursday, 6th January 2022, 2:28 pm
Once you have mastered this custard tart recipe, you can adapt it to make your own version

My tummy rumbles at the very thought of a slice, meaning always a large slice of course!

Lemon-scented pastry filled with a velvet Italian custard finished with a crowning glory of sweet Italian pine-nuts, if the new year starts with this decadent tart then we are truly in for a delicious month (fingers, toes and everything else crossed).

The name of this tart alone echoes child-like feelings and memories from being that once mini Carmela, the little curly- haired girl who used to perch on the rickety wooden stool in Nonna Carmela’s tiny Bedfordshire kitchen.

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She would make and roll the pastry by hand at such speed and with such elegance and grace, that I was left mesmerised.

This pastry is outstanding and, if time is to hand, I would most definitely recommend that you make it yourself; however life can be a challenge on many a day so shop-bought shortcrust would do the job if you preferred an easier route.

Torta della nonna is quick and easy to prepare, inexpensive and guaranteed to become a family favourite. You can easily split the recipe to make small palm-sized individual tarts or double the quantity to make more and gift them as required.

Once you have practised the recipe you can then begin to make it your own version.

You could add some marsala-soaked raisins into the filling and instead of using 500ml of milk for the custard filling, you could split the mixture and change it to half milk and half cream.

Ensure to keep this recipe and add it to your baking folder and enjoy something a little different throughout 2022.

Pre-heat oven: 180C

Cooking time: 30-45 minutes

Serves: 8


300g 00 flour (or plain flour)

1 tsp baking powder

120g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 large egg yolks

1 whole egg

110g butter, salted

½ lemon, zested


500ml milk

2 eggs

140g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

30g 00 flour

1 small lemon zest

50g pine-nuts

1. For the pastry, add all the ingredients into a bowl and combine into a ball of dough. Do not over work the dough.

Flatten the dough out into a large disk and cover with cling-film. Place the dough into the fridge for at least 30 minutes to chill.

2. In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the milk to a gentle simmer and add the lemon zest.

3. Into a clean bowl crack in the eggs and add the vanilla essence, sugar and flour. Stir to fully incorporate.

4. Slowly add the warm milk into the egg mixture, place back into the saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until thickened.

5. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool, taste for a little reassurance.

6. Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin and line a 27cm dish or tart tin.

7. Pour the custard into the dish and sprinkle over the pine-nuts.

8. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until still wobbly and golden in patches.

Remove the tart from the tart case once cooled.

Slice and enjoy at room temperature.

The tart stores wonderfully in the fridge for up to a week.