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Grandma's Cake - Torta della Nonna

Master Chef Paul MattisonMaster Chef Paul Mattison hails from upper New York State. After listening to all his 'nonna' (who came from Puglia in southern Italy) told him about Italian cuisine he went to the prestigious Culinary Institute of America to train as a chef.

Following success as chef in a noted Aspen restaurant Paul moved to Sarasota on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Here in ten short years he took 'The Summerhouse Restaurant' from near dereliction to being, not only one of Sarasota and Florida's top spots but to also being named by the Wine Spectator as being in the world’s top two hundred restaurants.

More recently he has opened his latest downtown Sarasota meeting place Mattison's City Grille and more recently Mattison's Steak House & Wine Bar on Longboat Key. With experience gained from his TV cookery classes and lessons at his home and around Florida his relaxed style and charm is becoming legend. Since 1998 Paul has been a regular traveller to Italy bringing a party of enthusiasts on a cooking vacation to experience the real Italy.

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For the crust:
5 cups (500g) unbleached all purpose flour
4 or 5 egg yolks
Grated zest of an orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
2 cups (200g) powdered sugar - the kind without cornstarch in it
A pinch of salt

For the filling:
12 ounces (300g) fresh ricotta
4 yolks
1 pint (500ml) whole milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (60g) flour
4/5 cup (180g) sugar

To decorate it:
1 egg yolk
Handful of peeled blanched almonds or pine nuts
Confectioner's sugar


It's difficult to find it made with ricotta in bakeries, because ricotta doesn't keep so well, but that's what you'll find in an Italian home.

  • Prepare the dough by mixing the ingredients gently, without handling them over much (a pastry blender will make things easier), and chill the dough for an hour in the refrigerator.
  • In the meantime, lightly whisk the yolks and the sugar, then sift in the flour, mixing carefully to keep lumps from forming, and then add the milk in a thin stream, again stirring gently.
  • Once the mixture is smooth, gently heat it, while stirring carefully, until it begins to thicken. Once it reaches a very slow boil, count to 120 while stirring gently and it is done; transfer it to a bowl, because it will continue to cook in the pot, and let it cool thoroughly.
  • Mix the ricotta into it.
  • Preheat your oven to 370°F (180°C).
  • Roll out the dough and use half of it to line a crostata pan (a low-sided 10-inch pan).
  • Pour the ricotta mixture into the middle of the pan, forming a mound, and cover it with the remaining half of the dough, tamping the edges down firmly to seal them.
  • Whisk the remaining egg yolk, brush it over the top of the torta, and scatter the nuts over it.
  • Bake the torta for an hour, let it cool, dust it with confectioner's sugar, and serve.

Master Chef Paul Mattison

© Chef Paul Mattison Recipe