This brittle, buttery tart — a giant shortbread of sorts — originates from Mantua, in Lombardy. 

Serves
8

Preparation

10min

Cooking

50min

Skill level

Easy
By
Average: 5 (1 vote)

The reason why it found its way into a Venetian cookbook is, well, mostly because I love it. The second reason is proximity: Mantua is only a few miles from the border of Veneto. The area shares a similar landscape and a culinary repertoire to that of its neighbouring region, with constant cultural-culinary exchanges happening between the two. 

Literally meaning ‘big crumbly one’, sbrisolona is a tart of humble provenance. Its modest ingredients consist of nothing more than polenta, flour, butter, sugar and just one precious egg. Hazelnuts were included in the original recipe, but modern adaptations call for almonds.

Sbrisolona is extremely simple to recreate at home. Traditionally served in chunks at the end of the meal, with coffee or grappa (or coffee ‘corrected’ with grappa), sbrisolona is equally good on its own or with a dollop of mascarpone cream {get Necchio's mascarpone recipe here). If you feel like embracing the Italian habit of eating biscuits for breakfast, this tart serves the purpose well, whether dipped in a steamy cup of caffelatte or crumbled in a bowl of cold milk and enjoyed like the sweetest of morning cereal.

Ingredients

  • 100 g (heaped ¾ cup) plain flour, sifted
  • 100 g (⅔ cup) fine polenta (such as Fioretto)
  • 100 g (scant ½ cup) caster sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • Pinch of fine-grain sea salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 100 g (⅓ cup + 1½ tbsp) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the tin
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 100 g (½ cup) whole skin-on almonds (or use 50 g (¼ cup) almonds and 50 g (¼ cup) whole hazelnuts)

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.

Instructions

Refrigeration time: 1 hour

In a large bowl, combine the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Using your fingers, work the butter and the egg yolk into the flour mix until you have a coarse, crumbly mixture. Add the almonds and knead them in.

Grease a 23cm (9 inch) tart tin with butter. Lay the crumbs in the tin evenly and press them down lightly to make them stick to each other and the tin, but without flattening them — the surface should be craggy rather than smooth. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F / gas mark 3). Bake the tart for 40 minutes, or until deep golden on the surface. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before serving, broken into chunks.

 

Recipe from Veneto: Recipes from an Italian Country Kitchen by Valeria Necchio, Guardian Faber, hb, $39.99.