Recently I taught a class with Giacomino Drago, the charismatic owner of several high-end Italian eateries here in Los Angeles. The youngest of eight siblings from a small village in Sicily, Giacomino and his brothers have earned their turf with some of the tastiest pasta dishes in town.
With his trademark Italian flair, Chef Drago demonstrated his famous Salsa di Pomodoro, Penne Arrabiata, and Melanzane alla Parmigiana to my eager students. You would think his recipes would be top secret, but Giacomino was kind enough to share some of his scrumptious intel with us.
So why am I giving you a recipe for dessert here? Because if I broadcasted such classified information, there could be a horse head on my doorstep tomorrow morning.
Joking aside, this is the dessert I concocted to finish our splendid Italian feast. Starting with Mario Batali’s recipe for Torta della Nonna I eliminated the white sugar and flour (who needs them anyway?), substituting a crust inspired by one of my favorite blogs that is simply pulverized dates and nuts. The honey complements the ricotta cheese beautifully, and the crust adds wholesome texture to the creamy, tangy filling. Incidentally, if you haven’t yet tried dandelion honey, you’re in for a sweet surprise.
It’s a year-round dessert you’ll want to keep in rotation, just in time to treat your Valentine. And in case you’re still wondering what to make for the rest of the meal, I’ve been cleared to share Giacomino’s recipes from the class….for a small price.
Baking spray, for greasing
10 ounces (about 2 cups) pitted dates (figs also work well)
8 ounces (about 1 ½ cups) raw almonds (pecans and walnuts are good, too)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups (a 15-ounce tub) fresh whole milk ricotta cheese (sheep’s milk or goat’s milk are best, when available)
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
½ cup honey, or more to taste
2 lemons, zested and juiced
3 organic eggs
Powdered sugar for dusting
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.
2. To make the crust, process the ingredients until finely chopped. Press the mixture tightly into a greased 11-inch fluted tart ring with a removable base. Set aside while you make the filling.
3. Make the filling: whisk together the ricotta, pine nuts, honey, lemon zest, and juice. Taste and adjust the sweetness if desired. Whisk in the eggs until creamy.
4. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and place in the oven to bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and serve warm, or cool completely and dust with powdered sugar.
Looking for more ideas for your Valentine? Fall in love with these:
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