Tiramisu, one of my first dessert loves, is one recognized by you, me and everyone else in America. The Italian treat of creamy mascarpone cheese and coffee liqueur-soaked ladyfingers comes in all kinds of versions, many delightful and some bastardized and served in places that don't offer anything else Italian on the menu.
I still carry a torch for tiramisu, but there's a new Italian dessert in my life: fregolotta. I wish everyone knew it just as well. This one is a shortbread tart topped with jam and nuts, and it's my go-to dessert.
The tart is simple to prepare and calls for ingredients that I bet are always in your fridge and pantry. But don't confuse its simplicity for lack of flavor. The fregolotta has a winning combination of buttery, sweet and nutty flavors.
The whole thing comes together quickly, making it the ideal last-minute dessert to bring to a party. It's really a big cookie dressed up for a night out as an elegant and sophisticated tart. You will turn to this recipe as often as you grab your favorite LBD from the closet.
Almonds are traditionally used for this tart, which comes from the Veneto region in northeastern Italy, but I keep reaching for the hazelnuts and apricot jam. Feel free to play around with different combinations of jam or preserves and nuts. The tart will work with whatever you have on hand, and any shade of fruit jam will look pretty peeking through the crumbled shortbread topping. Citrus zest or herbs mixed into the shortbread would work well, too. Some traditional recipes include polenta. Chef Mario Batali says its crumbly texture makes it a great partner for wine and spirits not unlike the way biscotti goes with coffee.
Fregolotta would be a welcome addition among the sweeter desserts and the Peeps in your Easter Sunday spread. And in the way that everyone loves Italy, your friends and family will love you for bringing over this tart for dessert.
Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with boyfriend Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.