Italian Flourless Chocolate Torta
Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active), plus cooling
Servings: 8 to 10
Pasticceria Gollini in Vignola, Italy, not far from Modena, is home to the sumptuous flourless chocolate cake known as torta Barozzi. Created in 1886 by pastry chef Eugenio Gollini and named for Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, a 16th-century architect, the much-loved sweet continues today to be produced according to a closely guarded secret recipe. Impostor recipes abound, as professional and home bakers alike have attempted to re-create the dessert, and we ourselves set out to devise a formula. It’s well known that torta Barozzi is made without wheat flour (and is therefore gluten free). Instead, a combination of ground peanuts and almonds—along with whipped egg whites—deliver a structure that’s somehow rich and dense yet remarkably light. We found that we could skip the peanuts, as almond flour alone worked well. To achieve a complex chocolatiness, we use both cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate (ideally, chocolate with about 70 percent cocoa solids). Instant espresso powder accentuates the deep, roasty, bitter notes and a dose of dark rum lifts the flavors with its fieriness. Serve with lightly sweetened mascarpone or whipped cream, or with vanilla gelato.
Don’t use natural cocoa. The recipe will still work, but the cake will be lighter in color and not quite as deep in flavor as when made with Dutch-processed cocoa. Take care not to overbake the cake. Remove it from the oven when a toothpick inserted at the center comes out with a few sticky crumbs clinging to it.After 30 to 45 minutes of cooling, the cake is inverted out of the pan; don’t worry about re-inverting it. True torta Barozzi is left upside-down for cutting and serving; we do the same with ours.
141 grams (10 tablespoons) salted butter, cut into 10 pieces, plus more for the pan
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
20 grams (1⁄4 cup) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
4 large eggs, separated, room temperature
160 grams (3⁄4 cup) white sugar, divided
100 grams (1 cup) almond flour
1⁄2 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons dark rum
Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Butter an 8-inch square pan, line the bottom with a parchment square and butter the parchment.
In a medium saucepan over medium, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, cocoa and espresso powder. Let stand for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to soften, then whisk until the mixture is smooth; cool until barely warm to the touch.
In a large bowl, vigorously whisk the egg yolks and 107 grams (1⁄2 cup) of the sugar until lightened and creamy, about 30 seconds. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk until homogeneous. Add the almond flour and salt, then whisk until fully incorporated. Whisk in the rum; set aside.
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium-high until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With the mixer running, gradually add the remaining 53 grams (1⁄4 cup) sugar, then beat until the whites hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Add about a third of the whipped whites to the yolk-chocolate mixture and fold with a silicone spatula to lighten and loosen the base. Scrape on the remaining whites and gently fold in until no streaks remain. Transfer to the prepared pan and gently shake or tilt the pan to level the batter.
Bake until the cake is slightly domed and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 to 45 minutes; the cake will deflate slightly as it cools.
Run a paring knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake, then invert onto a platter; if needed, peel off and discard the parchment. Cool completely. Dust with cocoa before serving.
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Tomatoes and Basil
Start to finish: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
Classic Italian pasta aglio e olio, or pasta with garlic and oil, is made with those ingredients and little else. This version gets an infusion of bright color and fresh flavor from halved grape tomatoes and chopped basil (or parsley). We boil the pasta until just shy of al dente, then reserve about 3⁄4 cup of the cooking water and drain. The noodles will finish cooking when returned to the pot along with the tomatoes and some of the cooking water. This technique allows the pasta to absorb the flavors of the sauce and become better integrated with it.
Don’t forget to halve the tomatoes. It’s a bit time consuming, but worthwhile, so that the
tomatoes soften slightly and relinquish some of their juice during the brief cooking time.
1 pound spaghetti
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1⁄2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh basil OR flat-leaf parsley
Finely grated Parmesan OR pecorino Romano cheese, to serve
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente. Reserve about 3⁄4 cup of the cooking water, then drain.
In the same pot over medium-low, combine the oil, garlic and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until garlic is light golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pasta, tomatoes, 1⁄2 cup reserved pasta water and 1⁄2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Cook, tossing, until the pasta is al dente, 1 to 2 minutes; add more reserved water as needed so the noodles are lightly sauced. Off heat, toss in the basil, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with cheese.
Italian Bean Soup with Fresh Pasta
Start to finish: 40 minutes
This is not your typical Italian bean and pasta soup. It’s a simplified version of a hearty, rustic zuppa we tasted at Trattoria dai Mugnai in Monteveglio, a village outside of Bologna. Short, wide ribbons of fresh pasta float dumpling-like in a creamy bean puree subtly flavored with garlic and fresh herbs. If you have a piece of Parmesan rind, simmer it with the beans; it releases savory flavors into the broth. For weeknight ease, we use canned Roman beans (also known as borlotti beans or cranberry beans). If you cannot find canned Roman beans, pintos, which have a similar color and texture, are a fine substitute. If you own an immersion blender, you can use it to puree the beans directly in the saucepan without first cooling the mixture for 10 minutes. Whichever type of blender you use, if you added a piece of Parmesan rind to the pot, remember to remove it before pureeing.
Don’t use dried pasta for this soup, as it will not cook properly. Fresh pasta is key. Look for wide, ribbon-like noodles such as pappardelle, tagliatelle or fettuccine and cut
them into 2-inch lengths before use. If you can find sheets of fresh pasta, they work
nicely, too—simply cut them into rough 2- inch squares. Don’t puree the beans until
completely smooth; leave them with some texture.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
Two 151⁄2-ounce cans Roman beans (see headnote), rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or sage
1 piece Parmesan rind (optional), plus finely grated Parmesan, to serve
8- to 9-ounce package fresh pappardelle, tagliatelle or fettuccine (see headnote), cut into 2-inch lengths
In a large saucepan over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the tomato paste darkens slightly and begins to stick to the pan, about 3 minutes.
Add the beans, rosemary, Parmesan rind (if using), 5 cups water, 3⁄4 teaspoon salt and 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high, then reduce to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the beans are soft enough to be easily mashed with a fork, about 10 minutes.
Off heat, remove and discard the Parmesan rind (if used); let cool for about 10 minutes. Using a blender and working in 2 batches to avoid overfilling the jar, pulse the bean mixture until creamy but not completely smooth. Return the puree to the pot and bring to a simmer over medium.
Add the pasta and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente (refer to the package for cooking times, but begin checking for doneness a minute or two sooner than the directions indicate). Taste and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with oil and top with grated Parmesan.
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PHOTO CREDITS: CONNIE MILLER OF CB CREATIVES