Zia Rina’s Own Crostata

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This is another family recipe of Simona’s, the justly famous crostata. The recipe has been handed down to Nonna Lella by none other than Zia Rina, her godmother.

To us, crostata is a faithful companion at breakfast or merenda throughout the year. (Some critics say it’s also a faithful companion around my waist, but it’s common knowledge that critics don’t get invited for dinner, and the harshest among them also experience sudden, um, knee grievances *grin*).

OK, let’s get down to it.

Apron-to-dish time: 60 minutes.

crostata ingredients: flour, sugar, eggs, butter
Ingredients for a crostata: flour, sugar, eggs, butter

Here’s what you need:

  • 400g white sugar
  • 750g all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs (4 yolks but only 2 whites)
  • 300g butter
  • lemon peel grate
  • vanillin (optional)
shelled eggs in a glass
You will need 4 eggs but only 2 whites

Turn on the oven and set it to 180°C before you start, it will save you time.

Put the butter in a small pot and just soften it (the recipe says it should be mostly, but not thoroughly melted). As an old-fashioned alternative, you can keep the butter out of the fridge until it becomes very soft. This may require up to two hours, depending on house temperature, and it is the kind of thing I regard as a dismissable detail.
Crostata ingredients in a bowl
Put everything in a bowl and mix roughly
Now, put all the ingredients in a bowl, and mix. Nonna Lella insists on just a rough mixing. or the texture of the cake will be too even.
Cake dough in a bowl
This is what a rough mix looks like

Once you get a look like the picture above, your dough is “rough” enough. You can go on and get a nicely mixed ball of dough, but Nonna Lella surely would not approve.

Working the dough with your hands
Work the dough with your hands a little

Now, put about 3/4 of the the dough on a surface and work it some more with your hands. If you have to use a cutting board, I suggest a plastic one: wood is porous and the dough will stick and make lots of crumbles. Still, if wood is all you have, go for it and worry not.

Making a circle of dough
Mold the dough in a rough circle for the bottom of the cake

Once the dough holds together you can work it in a kind of circle that will be the bottom of your cake. Never mind about neat borders, this kind of dough cannot be worked neatly.

Setting dough in the mould
Make a bottom for the cake

Now use the circle as a bottom for the cake. Work it and thin it with your hands so that the bottom of the mould is completely covered. Yes, it’s Simona’s hands in the pic. Cakes are her private category.

dough in a mould awaiting marmalade
Add a thick border of dough

Now take the remainin 1/4 of the dough, make a kind of long sausage and use it to make a think border. Why thick? Because it will have to keep the jam in. Yes, jam is not a liquid, but it will be once it’s heated up enough. You need not trust me, you’ll see for yourself that the most difficult thing in a crostata is avoiding jam spills.

Putting jam on the dough
Put a 1cm-thick layer of jam on the dough

Now, jam. Make a layer of about 1cm of you favourite jam, or marmalade. Just to make you envious, we used Nonna Lella’s Plum Jam.

Crostata ready to cook
Crostata is oven-ready!

Traditional crostata has a grid-like covering of thin dough sausages. For reasons unknown to me, Simona’s family puts a simple disc of dough in the center. It’s just for decoration anyway, be creative.

A homemade crostata
Crostata is ready!

Put in the oven and cook at 180-200°C for approximately 40 minutes. When the dough begins to look mid-brown, you know it’s ready.

Notice: Be careful, a crostata just taken out of the oven smells irresistible. Do not be tempted: the jam will be totally hot for a while after the dough cools, and you will only discover together with its adhesive properties. Few things are more painful and make you look dumber than scorching your mouth with hot jam you are then unable to wipe away.

Mini Nutella crostatas
Mini Nutella crostatas “for the kid” (yeah, sure)

If you find yourself with some extra dough, you can make mini crostatas “for the kid”. We had run out of jam, so we were forced to use Nutella.


  1. I am not going to try your recipe! it would be a disaster for me alone in the kitchen haha. I’m just now getting used to making my own american food. I wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to make a recipe from another culture — especially Italian — unless I was in the kitchen with an Italian! Thanks for your like on my blog post, and please don’t forget to follow me! I’ll do the same and I hope we get to open up a line of communication and keep it constant. I learned Latin in my undergraduate career so it can help me learn Italian, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. I’m always open for a language and culinary arts tutor! Vale!

    • hi Drjones! tak emy advice and try anyway. Or, take one of our classes if you happen to be in the vicinity. But seriously, you should try. If food from another culture worries you, just pretend you’re from Brooklyn or New Jersey 🙂
      Latin in undergrad, now that’s uncommon. Our compliments, the Latin farewell is dense with meaning.
      Let’s definitely stay in touch.

  2. I can’t wait to try to make this! I just got a “real” new oven, I had a crappy oven that didn’t work and then they replaced it with a “mini” and that burned everything. I complained because I LOVE to cook, so now I have a brand new oven!!! But I can’t quite figure out the temps because it’s only numbers? 1,2,3,4, etc… Any ideas? Your post is great! Looking forward to the next 100!!! Viva Italia!!!

    • Hi Miss Misfit and thanks,
      kudos on having the crappy oven replaced. It’s a marvellously useful kitchen tool. Mine has an auto-off cooking timer, and I use it very often when I cook in guerrilla mode 🙂
      Coming to the “numbers only” issue. That’s awful. Clearly designed by somebody who need’t cook.
      Even so, you can try this ways out:

      1. Legit: somewhere in the instruction manual (these days, even ovens come with an instruction manual. Bah.) you’ll find the maximum oven temperature. Supposing your number dial goes from 1 to 10, the max temperature you find will be 10. Now just divide that max temperature by 10 and you have all the intermediate temperatures. More or less.
      2. Punctilious, get hold of an oven thermometer.
      3. Quick and dirty: 7 or 8 (on a 1-10 scale) will do for almost everything.

      let us know how it works!

    • you can coerce ma into giving up her personal reserve or in making more.
      Or, you can use whatever you have at home, crostata goes with any kind of jam (possibly excluding citrus marmalades, they tend to brown very fast).
      Try your own variation and let us know…

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